Category Archives: Books & Writing

Review of 2015

Utah on map2015 has been a productive year at Utah Advance! Here are some highlights.

  • Led a weekly training cohort in biblical and theological studies through CB Matrix.
  • Participated in monthly dialog meetings with teachers at local LDS Institute of Religion.
  • Hosted the “Think Outside” workshop for local pastors to help churches succeed at reaching people far from God.
  • Created a video curriculum series on Living in Utah, designed for small groups or Sunday school classes.
  • Attended the Exponential Conference, the nation’s largest gathering of church planters and church planting leaders, in Tampa, Florida.
  • Taught a 2-week module on Cults and Apologetics for CB Matrix.
  • Organized the spring Church Planters Summit, and participated in panel on Facing Family Challenges.
  • Participated in a panel at the Ethnic Ministries Summit on “Understanding your Latter-day Saint Neighbors.”
  • Graduated a cohort of leaders with CB Matrix.
  • Spoke at the Transitions Conference about navigating the relational journey from Mormonism to faith in Christ.
  • Helped a church design a support group and curriculum for people transitioning from other faiths.
  • Made progress on a new book: A Guide to Shepherding Former Mormons.
  • Published the Jesus Without Joseph study guide as an electronic book available on Amazon Kindle.
  • Organized the fall Church Planters Summit, and moderated a panel of veteran pastors on persevering in ministry in Utah.
  • Counseled with several former and transitioning Mormons about their faith journey.
  • Consulted with several church planters and pastors on areas of strategic and practical ministry.
  • Translated past training seminars into web articles on utahadvance.org.
  • Developed a multi-faceted internship program for young adults and others with an interest in cross-cultural ministry in Utah. Approved the first intern, who will be coming in February 2016.
  • Prepared to teach a seminar and staff a booth at the Urbana Student Missions Conference in St.Louis, MO – December 27-31.

 

Book Recommendation: Unveiling Grace

I just finished reading Unveiling Grace by Lynn K. Wilder (Zondervan, 2013).  As a former Mormon myself, and a pastor in Utah for 30 years, I’ve long had an interest in the journey people must navigate to leave Mormonism and find their way to a new kind of relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  (You can see some past posts along those lines here, here, and here.) This book paints a compelling picture of one family’s journey along that path.

3D_unveilinggrace_SmallThe book is the story of Mike and Lynn Wilder and their children, with particular focus on how they joined the Mormon church and the process by which they left it.  Several factors make the story compelling.  First, Lynn was a professor at Brigham Young University.  This gives credibility to her experience as a Mormon.  Second, Mike and Lynn were very active and loyal Latter-day Saints.  They had significant callings in the church.  Their children were raised as faithful Mormons.  Their sons served missions.  Their experience of Mormonism was not second-hand or from the fringe.  Third, Lynn is very open about sharing the challenges of the journey, including their own faults and failings.  Fourth, she vividly describes the hand of God on their lives throughout their years in Mormonism leading up to their departure.  She gives us an intimate window into the inner workings of her heart in relation to God.

Let me mention something about the tone of the book.  It is not about evidences or arguments for or against Mormonism.  There are plenty of places where you can find information about changes to the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith’s polygamy, and other troubling subjects.  That’s not what this story is about.  It is deeply personal and focuses on the grace of God.  The story is suffused with God’s presence and activity.  In the end, the compelling reason to leave Mormonism was not the apologetic evidence, but a fresh realization of the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

I’m recommending this book to two groups of people.  First, this is a great story for anyone who might be questioning their own Mormon faith.  This story gives them a credible role model.  I’ve already talked to people in this position whose own stories mirror what the Wilder’s went through.  The book can give hope and encouragement to those spiritual seekers that there is more to God than Mormonism, and there is life with God after Mormonism.  Second, I’m recommending the book to people who have relationships with Mormons and want to encourage them to consider the grace of God in Christ.  If that’s you, this book will help you understand where your LDS friend is coming from.  It gives us a great view of the internal workings of a Mormon heart and mind.  And it suggests constructive ways that you can have a positive influence on your LDS friend.

I had dinner with the Wilders recently.  They are gentle, caring people filled with compassion for their Mormon people.  They are also sound and growing in their own relationship with God.  It used to be that everyone who left Mormonism was bitter and angry, and that was reflected in the kind of literature former Mormons wrote.  Not so with the Wilders.  Their approach is genuinely winsome.  Pray for them as this book thrusts them into the limelight, and they have decisions to make and new waters to navigate in their ministry.

To learn more, check out www.unveilinggracethebook.com and www.unveilingmormonism.com.

 

Latest Book Distribution Report

I still can’t believe a major publisher would be willing to publish my little books, so I’m like a proud dad whenever I get my statements.  I’m thoroughly gratified that anybody would want to buy what I’ve written.  So here’s my thank you to everyone who has invested in my stuff.  As of July 1, 2013, you all have bought the following number of books (in all formats).

By the way, if you haven’t read them, and would like to do so, you can order them just about anywhere online, but the best price comes from my store:  http://www.utahadvance.org/?page_id=3

Understanding the Book of Mormon: 5,638 copies

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Understanding Your Mormon Neighbor: 3,253 copies

A Quick Christian Guide for Relating to Latter-day Saints

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evangelicalism for Mormons

I’ve been invited to contribute a chapter to an interesting new book for average Mormon readers that will seek to clarify evangelical Christian positions on important theological questions.  The book will not be about proving Mormon beliefs wrong but will seek to provide a positive, winsome, and persuasive explanation of what we believe – and why – on key issues.

My contribution will focus on the relationship of grace and works.  Other chapters will explore such topics as the Trinity, deification and exaltation, divine disembodiment, Scripture and revelation, the meaning of conversion, and more.  I don’t know what the book will be called, but the working title is Evangelicalism for Mormons.

What’s interesting is that the book is not being produced by an evangelical publisher, but by Greg Kofford books, a publishing firm devoted to regional and Mormon studies and the discussion of Mormon thought.  (See gregkofford.com).  Hopefully the publisher’s reputation in the LDS world will encourage people to pick up the book, and the winsome and informative tone of the articles will encourage them to actually read it.

I hope to make some significant progress on my chapter after I return from my trip to Japan.  I’m not getting paid anything for my part of the book, so if you feel moved to make a contribution toward my expenses, you can use the “Donate” button to your right.

Reviews of “Understanding the Book of Mormon”

My book Understanding the Book of Mormon has been well received by the reading community, as represented by people who use the Goodreads site.  Reviews there average 4.13 out of 5 stars, with no negative reviews.  If you haven’t read it yet you can get Understanding the Book of Mormon in print version, e-book, or audio book.  Here are the comments people have left at the Goodreads site:

“I am very new to this topic and I thought that this book did a wonderful job of teaching the basics. It was written by an ex-Mormon who is still close to his Mormon family but he is also Pastor and is the perfect person I believe to write on this topic. He comes at it from not only head knowledge but a compassionate heart as well.”

“Fair and balanced, no bashing, gave me insight to the beliefs of my close friends and helps me understand them more.”

“This is a good, balanced introduction for someone who isn’t familiar with the Book of Mormon.”

“The author, a former Mormon, offers a temperate critique of the Book of Mormon, and he doesn’t use straw man techniques. In fact, he submitted the most controversial material to active LDS members (including friends and family) for review and critique. He gently points out the flaws of the Book of Mormon.”

“This is a fantastic book! So greatful there is a generous and kind book that helps christians gain perspective on this other religion.”