Sexual misconduct report about preacher Ravi Zacharias stuns his LDS and evangelical friends in Utah

The famed Christian author, who died last year, spoke at the Tabernacle and BYU.

(Jeff Morehead/The Chronicle-Tribune via AP) In this March 30, 2016, file photo, Ravi Zacharias, center, speaks during the Society of World Changers induction ceremony at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Ind. A law firm's investigators have released a scathing report on their four-month investigation of alleged sexual misconduct by Zacharias, who founded a global Christian ministry that bears his name.

In 2004, Ravi Zacharias, an evangelical author and Christian apologist, became the first preacher of another faith in 105 years to speak from the pulpit of the iconic Tabernacle on Salt Lake City’s Temple Square.

The popular Indian-born preacher, who died in May 2020, was a religious mentor to the Rev. Gregory Johnson, leader of Standing Together, a network of Utah pastors that sponsored Zacharias’ visit.

Zacharias returned to the Beehive State several more times, speaking at Brigham Young University and offering public lectures. He met the then-President Gordon B. Hinckley and his two counselors in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on occasion and developed a friendship with apostle Jeffery R. Holland. The last time he was in Utah, Johnson said Friday, was in December 2019, when Zacharias and his wife dined with the Johnsons and the Hollands and attended the annual Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert.

Neither Johnson nor Latter-day Saint officials expected the bombshell about the famed evangelical speaker and teacher that dropped this week.

On Thursday, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries released an independent report of an investigation it had commissioned into allegations of sexual misconduct by its founder.

Investigators concluded that Zacharias had engaged “in a pattern of sexual misconduct,” Religion News Service reported, “including groping spa workers and asking them to massage his genitals.”

Among the other findings were “romantic emails Zacharias sent to a woman in South Korea and a massage therapist in Thailand, whom he called his ‘angel,’” RNS wrote, “and a collection of more than 200 selfies — some of them explicit — from younger women.”

Though some of the allegations had surfaced last fall, Johnson had trouble believing them.

“This was not the man we thought we knew. He was such a stellar leader,” Johnson said. “Clearly, he had this dark side.”

Learning about the reported behavior by a man the Utah evangelical leader had known since 1991 and considered “a hero, mentor and friend,” he said, “was one of the saddest personal experiences in my life as a pastor.”

He is “deeply pained” for Zacharias’ wife, Margie, Johnson said. “It hurts her to the core of her being.”

He aches for all the victims, he said, and “for those who now struggle with their faith in God because the messenger was flawed.”