In Unveiling Grace: The Story of How We Found Our Way out of the Mormon Church, author Lynn K. Wilder describes how two different Mormon missionaries, serving almost 30 years apart, changed her life. While describing these changes, she also gives readers a glimpse at what life is like within the Mormon church.
Wilder and her husband, Mike, were nominal Christians living in Indiana, when they first encountered Mormon missionaries. Being inquisitive and hospitable, the couple continued engaging with the missionaries over a series of visits. While still holding some doubts and questions about the Mormon church, they began feeling the full-court press to join. Lynn describes their tactics:
Then someone got smart. They sent a Mormon professor from Mike’s department at the university, and the professor’s wife, to mentor us and to love on us like parents. We were invited to dinners at their home and to church activities, gaining status in the university and in the church community in one fell swoop. This join-the-family technique was the most effective of all in getting us to stay with them. Mormons understand the role that relationships play in potential converts’ willingness to accept new ideas and the LDS culture. Establishing relationships and loving people works. Mormons do it well. (Kindle loc. 401).
After they joined the church, Lynn describes how they both deepened their engagement: they earned their temple recommend, both taking on local leadership responsibilities, and she worked to start and raise a large family. But their journey is not without personal and social issues; Lynn faced great external pressure to stop working and become a full-time mom, and the couple suffered through several miscarriages. Through all this, however, Lynn expresses that her confidence was still firmly rooted in the church, and specifically in Joseph Smith and the current church leadership.
Eventually the family, now made up of three sons and a daughter, moved to Utah, so Lynn could take a professorship at BYU. This move also brought them closer to the center of the Mormon universe, and into a insulated, cliquish culture into which they would never quite integrate.
Trouble started brewing when her children began serving their Mormon missions. One son was kicked out of the Mormon church because of some repented sins. Other events started showing Lynn that her faith was placed in a religion built entirely on man.
The second Mormon missionary that changed her life forever was her third son, whom served for two years in Orlando. While there, he engaged in trying to convert two Baptist pastors, one of which told him to start reading the New Testament for himself. By the end of his two years, he confessed in the Biblical Jesus, the one full of grace and love, and rejected the teachings of Joseph Smith.
This new development set the rest of the family on a journey into reading the New Testament. Lynn describes these days passionately, writing how Mike and her would drive two hours away to visit an evangelical church, praying the whole way they would not run into someone they knew. She also describes a story about when she lost a crucifix she had started wearing (which is against Mormon teaching), only to discover it in the BYU lost and found.
Eventually Lynn, her husband, and their children embraced the gracious God of the Bible, and rejected the teachings of the Mormon church. Of course, this changed everything about their lives; Lynn painfully describes broken relationships, the uncertainty about her teaching career, and regret over what she had taught her students at BYU.
In Unveiling Grace, Lynn Wilder compellingly recounts her two conversions: first, in joining the LDS church in the 1970s, and then in discovering the Jesus of the New Testament in the 2000s. She also provides a behind-the-scenes look at the beliefs and practices of the LDS church, both in a local church (ward) context, as well as the sacred temple ceremonies. She does a great job of explaining why Mormons believe what they do, even using LDS scripture references to back her claims. Overall, she provides a very readable and encouraging memoir of how God pursues and woos His people, even when they are deeply embedded in another faith.
- Title: Unveiling Grace: The Story of How We Found Our Way out of the Mormon Church
- Author: Lynn K. Wilder
- Publisher: Zondervan (2013)
- Format: Kindle
- My Review: 4/5