Quick Book Review
Unveiling Grace by Lynn K. Wilder
Content (a short synopsis of the book):
Lynn Wilder presents her story, Unveiling Grace, in three stages: Mormon Bliss, Cracks in the Façade and Starting Over. Her story is really her family’s story. Each member of her family travels the path leading to the biblical Jesus, but at their own pace. She tells this journey from her perspective beginning at age 25. The first of Lynn’s family to make the big step away from Mormonism was their son, Micah. His shift came to critical mass within the last 3 weeks of his Mormon mission duties while away in Florida. This shift turned out to be, as the expression goes, “the perfect storm.” Unlike his parents Mormonism was all Micah had ever known. In fact, his enthusiasm for Mormonism was such that he had been the youngest person to ever be allowed to do Temple work. Then after being challenged by a Baptist preacher to read the New Testament “as a child” Micah came to see a Jesus he never knew inside Mormonism.
Before their initiation into Mormonism Lynn and Mike had been nominal Presbyterians. They eventually moved to Utah, “Zion” as the Mormons call it. Lynn became an esteemed professor at BYU. Her husband Mike had numerous positions of influence in the Mormon church in addition to his investment business. It was a blissful existence until years later when they had their eyes opened to the warts of Mormonism. Lynn unveils these warts bit by bit in her narrative which played over several years. The beauty of this families new destination is typified in Micah helping form a Christian band, Adam’s Road. Their passion for the pure grace through Christ alone is soaked in the words of their songs. Many people who leave Mormonism go to other errant religions or into atheism. The Wilder journey doesn’t get off on the wrong exit. It is a journey leading to a the ultimate highway – faith in Christ alone.
The beauty of Micah’s story within the Wilder’s story is that it unfolds for us what happens when someone comes to see the real Jesus from reading the New Testament. In other words, during this period of time Micah had little outside influence other than simply reading the Bible. The power of the Word is evident in this tale of pure and freedom giving grace.
Topic Categories of this publication:
biography, Mormonism, Christianity, apologetics, conversion, Jesus, grace,
Appendix 1: Christian ministries with information on Mormonism
Appendix 2: Quick doctrinal comparison of Mormonism and the Bible
Glossary of common Mormon lingo, like “stake president” (what’s that?)
writing level – high school to college
writing style – conversational storytelling
notable and quotable:
“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.” (40)
“We had made our first temple visit back in March of 1979, when we received the ordinances for our own exaltation and eternal progression. That experience was quite disturbing.” (70)
“Like a medieval feudal system, in which the master owned even one’s excrement for fertilizer, I belonged to the Mormon Church.” (73)
“I realized we LDS parents were raising our kinds pretty isolated from the real world.” (82)
“After fourteen consecutive nights of waking at 2:00am and being in the LDS Scriptures and then in prayer, I was physically exhausted and spiritually frustrated, reaching for answers.” (87)
“…I had a hard time wrapping my mind around who Heavenly Father…was, besides a punitive lawgiver.” (88)
“Mike’s parents and my family were all Christian, but no one talked to us about Mormonism.” (97)
“Mormonism does not reverence the cross as a religious symbol.” (100)
“…in a judgmental system like Mormonism, there is no such thing as unconditional love, forgiveness or the Dancer of grace…[but] a weak Jesus who sacrifice was not enough.” (148)
“Tentatively Micah rose to his feet and took the mic…’Jesus is all you need.’ …This testimony was so unusual and so tender that many were weeping. …President Smoot, of course, could not take Micah’s testimony as a true Mormon declaration.” (162)
“Although I’d been reading the Book of Mormon for a long, long time, I’d never realized before that Christ’s exact words were not actually throughout the book.” (185)
“In the pages of the Bible, however, I found a different God. This was a much bigger God whose words challenged my Mormon godhead. ‘Biggie-size your God!’ Pastor Shaw later told us. And that’s just what happened.” (195)
“Because Book of Mormon doctrine often conflicts with Doctrine and Covenant doctrine, Mormon Scriptures exist to argue both sides of some theological issues.” (219)
“Our friend told us her grandfather was very upset with the prophet Joseph F. Smith when he lied to Congress, stating that the Mormon Church had stopped the practice of plural marriage when it had not.” (279)
“Did you notice? Mike and I came to know Jesus, to be converted, changed, and healed, only when we read and soaked in the Word of God – where the Dancer of grace unveiled to us the real and living and powerful Jesus.” (319)
Short Analysis (what I learned from this author):
One of the things I learned form this author is the value in telling your story without using a dagger as pen. She lays out her angst at various times which is to be expected given how much the Wilders had invested in the Mormon church. Lynn Wilder makes very vivid for the outsider what it’s like to feeling the weight of needing to be “temple worthy.” She does not analyze every chink in her former church’s armor, just enough to explicate the reality of her doubts. The constant cycle of Sisyphus Mormon style is what the author makes plain – always striving to be good enough. This struggle provides a helpful contrast to the Gospel of the New Testament. The pure and simple grace of Jesus keeps shinning through her narrative as the scales, piece by piece, fall off her Mormon eyes.
Another important lesson for Christians in Unveiling Grace is to know and practice the reality of grace by showing kindness to Mormons rather than giving them a cold shoulder. Wilder tells early in her story how the social warmth and relationship building ways of the Mormons was one of the key things which brought them in. Christians need to not be afraid to build bridges of inquiry and receptiveness with those outside their circles. Invite them into your homes. Offer the door to door missionaries something to drink (w/o caffeine or alcohol since Mormons are supposed to avoid these). Listen to their talks and respond gently with thoughtful questions from the words of Jesus in the New Testament. Know for yourself the key points of the Gospel so you can share it without resorting to an argumentative spirit. Realize Mormon doctrine uses many of the same terms Bible Christianity does, yet with much difference meanings.
This book will probably continue to be a key resource for both Christians and Mormons who are looking for what it’s like to struggle with the many indefensible problems in Mormonism. There is a growing body of reference material both on the academic level and general reader level that analyzes Mormon doctrine, scriptures and history.
Yet, the Wilder’s story feeds a growing curiosity for what it’s like to live inside the Mormon church in this generation. The Mormon church is known for its secrecy so there is a place for the analytic probing of its often conflicted teaching. On the other hand, Unveiling Grace fits into a niche which persuades not so much by polemic, but by the authenticity of personal experience, especially as this experience leads into the New Testament understanding of Jesus.
My READ IT or NOT rating:
I give this book 5 out of 5 temples.
other resources related to this book:
Unveiling Grace video presentation available on Youtube
Adam’s Road band website – free music
a roundtable – Wilder brothers and friends talk about their first steps out of Mormonism