By Bob Allen
Mormons and Southern Baptists may not see each other in heaven, but they might in jail, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler said in an Oct. 21 lecture at Brigham Young University.
“I do not believe that we are going to heaven together, but I do believe we may go to jail together,” the head of the flagship Southern Baptist Convention seminary told about 400 BYU students, faculty and staff in an address about religious-liberty concerns. “I do not mean to exaggerate, but we are living in the shadow of a great moral revolution that we commonly believe will have grave and devastating human consequences.”
Citing personal friendship with LDS officials, Mohler said the two faith groups divided by doctrine find common ground in their defense of traditional marriage.
“Your faith has held high the importance of marriage and family,” Mohler said. “Your theology requires such an affirmation, and it is lovingly lived out by millions of Mormon families.”
“That is why I and my evangelical brothers and sisters are so glad to have Mormon neighbors,” Mohler said. “We stand together for the natural family, for natural marriage, for the integrity of sexuality within marriage alone, and for the hope of human flourishing.”
Mohler said a “moral revolution” is taking place with regard to marriage and the family and that sexuality is “now clearly becoming a religious liberty issue.”
“The rights of parents to raise their children according to their most basic and fundamental theological and moral convictions are now at stake,” he said. “Courts have ruled in some jurisdictions that parents cannot even ‘opt out’ their children from sex education driven by moral revisionism. Legislatures in California and New Jersey have made it illegal for mental health professionals to tell minors that there is anything wrong with homosexual sexuality, orientation or relationships.”
Mohler said some religious institutions have already been forced to make a decision: “forfeit your convictions or forfeit your work.” Both, he said, are violations of religious liberty.
“This is what brings me to Brigham Young University today,” Mohler said. “I am not here because I believe we are going to heaven together. I do not believe that. I believe that salvation comes only to those who believe and trust only in Christ and in his substitutionary atonement for salvation. I believe in justification by faith alone, in Christ alone.”
“I love and respect you as friends, and as friends we would speak only what we believe to be true, especially on matters of eternal significance” he said. “We inhabit separate and irreconcilable theological worlds, made clear with respect to the doctrine of the Trinity. And yet here I am, and gladly so. We will speak to one another of what we most sincerely believe to be true, precisely because we love and respect one another.”
Mohler’s speech was part of a Faith, Family and Society series focused on bringing people of different faiths together based on common values of family, faith and community. The religious leaders invited to speak at BYU are free to speak on the topic of their choice but are asked to focus on the values they feel strongly about rather than on religious doctrine.
Previous speakers have included George Wood, chief executive officer of the Assemblies of God, and Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary and former head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
While doctrinal differences may exist between Baptists and Latter-day Saints, Land said they share core values. “When I hear the word LDS the first thing I think of is family,” Land said, according to The Digital Universe, BYU’s student-produced online news site and campus lab newspaper.
“When God called me to preach 50 years ago when I was 16, the burden he laid on my heart was America,” Land said. One issue Land said is especially important is the family.
“I would argue that there is not one social ill that faces us as a nation that is not a direct result of the disintegration of the nuclear family,” Land said of a topic addressed in the Latter-day Saint statement The Family: A Proclamation to the World.
Mohler acknowledged in his speech that it might seem odd to many people that a Baptist theologian and seminary president would be invited to speak to a Mormon school. The Deseret News said such an invitation once might have been considered rare, but today it fits within a larger framework of interfaith outreach accelerated by shared concerns over religious liberty.
“When it comes to religious freedom, we all hang together or we all hang separately,” Land told the Deseret News in a Q&A interview published Sept. 6. “We are common targets in this. The secularists are out to circumscribe our constitutional rights.”