It was my privilege and opportunity to speak with students last week at Brigham Young University on my faith and family. For those who may have questions regarding my appearance at BYU and meetings with some in the LDS leadership, let me provide some context.
In the greater Salt Lake City area there is an evangelical association called Standing Together. It’s comprised of approximately 100 evangelical churches that in recent years have been reaching out in friendship to LDS leaders and members. Our Assemblies of God pastors and churches in Salt Lake City are involved in Standing Together. Such contacts have produced an openness not previously experienced. Just two weeks before me, Dr. Richard Land, president of Southern Theological Seminary in Charlotte, spoke at BYU. Two weeks after me, Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, will speak at BYU. And, it is my understanding that Ravi Zacharias has been invited to return to preach at the Mormon Tabernacle early next year. He has done so previously.
Two years ago the National Association of Evangelicals held a meeting in Salt Lake City. At that time, Standing Together arranged a meeting with approximately 125 or so of us in the governor’s mansion for an address by a top LDS leader, Dr. Jeffrey Holland. That resulted in a conversation and friendship between him and me that ultimately led to my being invited to speak at BYU and also have opportunity to meet with several LDS leaders and a few members of the BYU Law School and Religious Education faculties regarding common concerns: religious liberty, how to work effectively to resist the cultural and secular pressures to push persons of faith out of the public square, the increasing coarseness within secular culture and the pressure that exerts on youth; as well as issues related to abortion, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and end of life concerns.
I was invited to speak to BYU students on the subject of Faith and Family. There were no restrictions on what I could say. One of the key leaders, knowing my personal testimony, requested that I speak on this subject. Students were not required to attend and gave up their lunch hour to do so. About 400 students crammed into every seat in the auditorium, and the overflow room – twice the size of the auditorium – also filled up with students. For 45 minutes, I spoke freely about how the Pentecostal Movement came to be, how the Assemblies of God arose out of that Movement, how my parents became AG missionaries, miracles in my family including my Dad (through the intercessory prayer of my mother) who was spared from poisoning by Tibetans on the mission field and my sister being healed of near blindness when she was 18. I told how during a revival at Central Bible College she had a vision of Christ on the cross, reached to take blood from the cross to apply to her eyes, but in actual reality took her glasses off and flung them across the platform. When she came out of the vision, she had perfect sight. I talked freely about the Baptism in the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in other tongues. I went on then to share my experience of faith, and ended by noting that faith is not subjective but is based on the objective reality of Jesus Christ risen from the dead. The students listened in rapt attention and when I was finished, gave a prolonged ovation. I leave the results to the Lord.
I’m providing for you a quote from one of our AG pastors, Ray Smith, pastor of Salt Lake Christian Center. He was in the audience at BYU.
Thank you so much for your lecture that I was privileged to attend. Your message obviously led by the Holy Spirit was exceptional. I cannot help but intercede for the hundreds of students that were able to hear you talk in their language (Story, Family and Faith) as if you were talking to a group of CBC students. Telling your story of your search for truth and the markers of faith that influence your decisions is, (in my opinion) exactly what they needed to hear. Theology with a personal narrative is so compelling to LDS students. I know that we will see fruit in eternity from your willingness to go out of the box and into the marketplace of the Mormon faith.
The Executive Leadership Team and the Executive Presbytery have been kept fully informed and have approved my willingness to establish these contacts and relationships. I do not pretend to know what the Holy Spirit might be doing within the LDS leadership, but I do believe the Spirit opened this door.
There is much more I could say, but those who trust my leadership will know that I would not have opened this door except the Spirit and our leaders “bade me go.” For those who do not trust my leadership, probably nothing I say will suffice and I simply leave that to the Lord.
There was a release from BYU that some are quoting and I close with reference to that. On the whole the release summarized well my visit, closing with this quote from me, “The whole aspect of the Christian faith, and my personal faith, rests upon whether or not Jesus Christ rose again from the dead.”
There are two brief references in the BYU release that require my clarification.
First, there was no interfaith discussion with the students. The leadership of BYU placed no restrictions on my message to the students and I freely shared about my faith and family. I did have private discussions with several in LDS leadership regarding the differences that separate us doctrinally; but also we discussed where we could work together within the public square on religious liberty and issues of morality.
Second, the BYU release quoted me as saying that “God is playing a role in all religions and that Christians are more united than they sometimes think.” While I do believe that the Holy Spirit is seeking to draw all persons to Jesus, I did not state what was attributed to me, but I do believe that there is common ground on issues facing our country and culture that we can stand united on. If evangelicals, Roman Catholics, LDS and others can stand together on issues of marriage as between a man and woman, right to life, and religious freedom – our country and culture will be better for it.
Finally, I must say that all within the LDS community treated me with utmost kindness and respect. One of their senior leaders said to me, “America needs the Assemblies of God.” I believe that was said most sincerely. I love and pray for the friends I have made within the LDS community over these past two years. I live, pray, and witness in expectation that we will live to see the prophecy of Pentecost fulfilled, that in these last days the Spirit will be poured out on all.
Thank you for your patience and prayers. I trust this explanation is helpful to you. Blessings!