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.
The 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.