Evangelist Ravi Zacharias told 3,500 gathered at the LDS Tabernacle Saturday that Christians will never change the disintegrating culture until they get right with God.
"The world out there is caught in this vortex of relativism," said Zacharias.
But, he said, "We will never change the outside until we are changed within."
He urged the audience — mostly evangelicals, but some Mormons as well — to make the word and worship of God central to their lives.
"Once we do that," Zacharias said, "the world will see the beauty that is Christ and want to follow him."
Zacharias is one of the evangelical Christian world’s most popular preachers and was making a repeat visit to the historic Tabernacle on Temple Square.
When he first preached there in November of 2004, Zacharias was the first non-LDS speaker from the Tabernacle’s pulpit in 105 years.
The Standing Together network of Utah evangelical churches invited Zacharias both times. Thirty-one evangelical churches and ministries distributed free tickets. Most seats were filled Saturday night.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, joked before Zacharias spoke that some might believe, upon seeing evangelicals and Mormons together, that the apocalypse has arrived.
He said the night was not an ecumenical gathering in which beliefs are compromised.
"Each of us is who we are and we believe what we believe," Holland said.
But, Holland said, in a world increasingly losing its religious moorings, it’s imperative that the extended Christian community join together to offer the answers to what ails "society and the soul."
Zacharias did not directly discuss cultural issues that unify most evangelicals and Mormons, such as opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion. His speech was titled "Lessons from History, Building a Nation Under God," but it was more a sermon than a history lesson.
He drew parallels between the hedonistic, child-slaughtering culture described in the Bible’s book of Second Kings and today’s world.
"Take a look at society today and ask yourself. What are we doing to our children? … We are eliminating them by the millions. I shudder to think what has happened to our reason."
The world also has lost the sense of the sacred union between a man and woman, he said. "It’s gone with the wind, trivialized, profanized."
Bob Pershe, of Park City, who attends Mountain Life Church, said he was struck by Zacharias’s appeal to the personal rather than political movements.
"What struck me was his call to focus on the word of God as the basis for everything we do," said Pershe. "It was more of a personal appeal for us to grasp onto, to believe we’ve been redeemed."
Zacharias was born in India in 1946 and immigrated to Canada with his family 20 years later. His conversion to Christianity came at age 17, when he was hospitalized and recuperating from a suicide attempt.
A prolific author and worldwide speaker, he founded Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, a non-denominational ministry based in Atlanta. It also has offices in Canada, India, Singapore, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, and Hong Kong.
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