Eli Brayley, self-proclaimed Christian preacher, stood in front of the statue outside of the Miller Administration Building yesterday discussing Christianity with a student after finishing his own preaching about the free gift of salvation and the fallacies of the Mormon faith.
“Where are your facts?” Brayley said to a Weber State University student who brought up the principle of Priesthood power. “Your notion of the priesthood is not written in the Bible.”
The student assured him that it is.
“Show me,” Brayley said, and the student said he would have to look it up in his Bible Dictionary because he didn’t know where to find the reference.
Brayley preached and spoke with many students and other members of the WSU community yesterday with a colleague during the latter of his bi-annual visits to the campus. Together they own Oasis Books in Logan, located about a mile away from Utah State University, and they visit the campus often to preach and discuss religion with students. They have been visiting USU and WSU for more than four years.
John Kowalewski, WSU director of media relations, said that though there are general guidelines concerning the freedom of speech when it threatens harm or may lead to harm of others, there is not currently a WSU policy that governs how people from outside of the university can come and exercise their freedom of speech on campus. A policy to address that issue is currently being drawn up and reviewed and will hopefully be completed within a year, according to Kowalewski.
“Especially at a public university, though, typically colleges and universities want to create a campus that fosters an open marketplace,” Kowalewski said, “and the free and open exchange of ideas even if the opinions shared may be viewed as offensive or counter to opinions held by members of that campus.”
A friend of Brayley’s, who is on a break from attending WSU and who preferred to remain anonymous because his family doesn’t know he has disassociated himself with the Mormon faith, discussed how Brayley can seem confrontational when he is preaching but is more approachable one-on-one.
“Once you get past the antagonizing and meet him just the two of you, he’s much easier to talk to, and you can really talk about anything,” he said. “He believes what he believes, and he’s going to stand his ground and won’t insult you. You may become offended by what he says, but that’s your choice.”
Then he said there was a time last year when Brayley was visiting in the fall when a student got in Brayley’s face, and a police officer had to pull the student away.
Brayley said his message is one of happiness, and that he comes to spread truth and not offend anyone.
“We’re here because Jesus commanded us to go and preach the gospel, and we are here to share the gospel of the good news of Jesus, that salvation is a gift of grace,” Brayley said.
Their preaching attracted large crowds throughout the day, as many students stopped to listen and debate doctrine, defend their faith and discover Brayley’s message.
“We love Mormons, though. We’re not anti-Mormon,” Brayley said. “There are people that are concerned about Mormons, not just anti-Mormons.”
In an interview, Brayley expressed his frustration with his perception that when confronted by a person who does not believe in their faith, Mormons label that person as being an “anti-Mormon” and don’t listen to anything he or she has to say.
Brayley said if Mormons would listen and think critically about the history of the Book of Mormon and the Bible, they would find serious problems with the doctrine of their church.
“The Mormon church doesn’t encourage its members to think critically about what they’re being taught,” Brayley said. “If they did, they would find some problems with the history and theology, for example, but we focus mostly on the theological problems. But most Mormons are not very knowledgeable about the theology. They’re just good at retelling what they’ve already been taught.”
WSU freshman Brock Morris stopped to listen to the preaching and made a few comments but mostly stayed in the background.
“I’m Mormon, and I have a strong testimony,” Morris said in an interview, “but I’m not a theologian, and I’m still learning a lot. It’s not fair for this guy, who spends a huge amount of his time preaching and studying the Bible, to say we don’t know enough because we’re still learning and figuring it out for ourselves.”