Religious liberty defenders under siege, Southern Baptist leader tells Mormon BYU audience

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President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary spoke to BYU students about strengthening human value in a dangerous age. Photo credit by Elliot Miller
Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, speaks to BYU students about strengthening human value in a time made dangerous by threats to religious freedom. (Photo by Elliot Miller)

Mormons and Southern Baptists have an important challenge in common in a battle over religious freedoms.

“I’m not here because I believe we’re (Mormons and Baptists) going to heaven together, but I believe we may go to jail together,” Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. told a BYU forum audience on Tuesday, Feb. 25.

“We are called to defend religious liberty for each other — so when they come for you, we are there, and when they come for us, you are there,” Mohler said.

Mohler alluded to his first visit to BYU in Fall 2013 and reiterated the need for interfaith dialogue in light of recent threats to religious freedom in America.

Referencing legal challenges to the constitutional ban of same-sex marriage in Utah and the request to extradite LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson to London to face charges for fraud, Mohler said, “We may go to jail together sooner than we thought.”

He said the urgent situation has arisen from rising secularism in the West, beginning with Europe but now affecting the U.S. in the form of redefining belief.

“Men have forgotten God,” he said.

Secularism threatens three important values: human dignity, human rights and human flourishing. He said it is up to those now living to not only defend, but contend, on behalf of these truths and values.

Mohler said human dignity is in danger because of the secular vision that humans are no more than highly evolved and developed primates.

“If we are not made in God’s image, and if this is not the defining fact of our human existence, then who are we?” Mohler asked. “If we are not created then we are accidents, and if we are accidents, there is no essential dignity to us.”

This view of man’s origin has helped justify the killing field of Cambodia, abortions throughout America and a growing trend toward creating “designer babies,” Mohler said.

Emily A. Thompson, a Southern Baptist who traveled from Idaho specifically to attend the forum, said she was strongly impacted by Mohler’s discussion of abortion.

“We are created. We have that value and specific design by God,” Thompson said. “If you don’t believe that, then people would believe abortion is OK because we do not have purpose if we are not designed by God.”

Mohler said that without religion, no one has any reason to defend vulnerable members of society, such as newborns, children with Down’s Syndrome or even the less intelligent.

Mohler cited a secular philosopher who said that without religion, naturalism lacked the power to defend human rights. He also mentioned a university bioethics professor who argued that from an evolutionary point of view, a fetus has less right to live than a pig.

Mohler next discussed human rights and said that “erotic liberty” is routinely triumphing over religious liberty in America. The third value, human flourishing, rests on security and stability, both of which require families based on marriage.

Mohler illustrated how quickly “erotic rights” are taking priority in the U.S. by saying that while same-sex marriage was inconceivable 20 years ago, 40 percent of Americans now live in states where it is legal. Mohler said marriage is a human development that cannot flourish if it isn’t focused on procreation.

Mohler said he came to BYU as a friend in faith to speak of his confidence in the Lord and the gospel revealed by Jesus Christ. “These are dangerous times but also times of hope,” he said.

Christians have the challenge of not just standing together to defend the fundamental beliefs and institutions that lead to human flourishing, but also to live them. “We are not merely called to defend them, but to fulfill them and to receive them and to find our joy in them,” Mohler said.

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