Lynn Wilder wasn’t born into a Mormon family. She and her husband became latter-day saints in 1977 just weeks after Mormon missionaries knocked on their door. Lynn Wilder and her family were deeply rooted in the Mormon faith for over 30 years. She attended temple services every week and spent countless hours fulfilling religious duties. She taught her children the Mormon gospel and was even a professor at Brigham Young University. Lynn knew the church culture inside and out and to her it was like family. Then one day, her 18 year old son who had become a Christian challenged her and the family to read the New Testament and everything changed. In her book Unveiling Grace, Lynn shares how her eyes and her family’s were open to the truth and how one by one, each of them found their way out of the Mormon Church.
Interviewer: Talk a little bit about what it was that attracted you to the Mormon Church and how did your family get involved.
Lynn: My husband and I were married and had no children and we were looking for a church and I think we just thought it was another Christian option. The people were wonderful. Mormon people just take you in and love you, a very strong community and culture. Within six months, my husband and I both had leadership callings in the church and for 30 years we were very strong in the church. I was a tenured professor at the Mormon Church in Brigham Young University, my husband was a high priest. We’d had a number of leadership callings. We loved the church, we really believed it was the Church of Jesus Christ.
Interviewer: There are no crosses in Mormon Churches. I want to talk a little bit about some of the differences between the Mormon Church and a typical Christian denomination because there are a lot of deep theological differences. Why no crosses?
Lynn: The Mormons say that the atonement happened in the garden and so the atonement didn’t happen on the cross. The only thing that happened on the cross for Mormons is the death of Jesus. And so they say “If your brother died by a gun, would you wear a gun around your neck?” It just doesn’t make sense to them. Once I started reading the New Testament and learned about the cross and the blood, those are both foreign concepts to Mormonism. I was just so moved, moved to tears.
Interviewer: One of the things that we should talk about is how reading the word, the Bible, the inerrant Word of God really was part of your journey to finding truth and finding what you’d been looking for in the beginning.
Lynn: My son began to read the New Testament when he was on his Mormon mission. He read it over and over for 20 months until his eyes were completely open to the fact that this was a different gospel than Mormonism and that you needed to choose Christ’s own words in the Bible or Mormon doctrine. That’s exactly what happened to me. He then reached back to his parents and said “Please read the New Testament.” Once I got into it, it became all-consuming, almost an obsession. I couldn’t put it down. I didn’t want to breathe or eat or sleep, I just wanted to read about this wonderful God of grace.
Interviewer: Why would most Mormons not have read the New Testament because I think a lot of Mormons consider themselves to be Christians. How does the Bible get left out of that?
Lynn: Mormons have four standard works or scriptures. The Bible is one of the four but they don’t believe that it’s translated correctly, that it’s sometimes mistranslated and so they don’t trust the Bible but they trust their other three sources above the Bible. So people in Mormonism would have read the Bible but if it bumps up against Mormon doctrine, you would say that’s not translated well.
Interviewer: When you’ve got four different books you’re working from, if you feel three are more in line with what you believe, you probably spend more time on those.
Lynn: There’s a concept in Mormonism of Heavenly Father but it’s not the same concept as God the Father that we in the Christian faith speak about.
Interviewer: Talk about the difference between the two.
Lynn: One of the things I realized when I started reading the New Testament was that this was not the same Godhead and particularly God the Father and Mormonism is not the same. Supposedly, God the Father appeared to Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, and he had a God, a body of flesh and bones. That’s not the God of the Bible. The Father of the Bible is a spirit. As I read the New Testament, I began to see some real differences. Also the God of Mormonism worked his way to godhood. He was originally a man and he worked his way to God.
Interviewer: Which you are also as a Mormon encouraged to do and told is possible, that you work toward this, right?
Lynn: One of the purposes of going to the Mormon temple is for priesthood members, males to work themselves to become gods.
Interviewer: Tell me about your family because my heart broke for you as I read your book. I thought to be so entrenched and you came one by one, it was a painful process. It wasn’t like this was something where someone came to you with another word one day and you all just walked away. You really had to do some serious soul-searching, scripture reading, questioning of all of this. It had to be incredibly painful.
Lynn: You have to understand in the Mormon Church, it’s your entire life, it’s not just a church you go to one side, it is 24/7. And so leaving that brings upon you a rejection and that’s something you have to consider very seriously but the more I met the God of the bible, He became so large to me and so worth it to me that little by little, you realize that you could give up anything for this God and that’s what we did.
Interviewer: Just the understanding seemed so huge to me and it was very refreshing to me as a believer to reread your discovery of truth from the Bible but the understanding that Jesus paid the price, that the work was completed on Calvary, there’s a striving that goes on without that, somehow in our flesh to obtain some kind of perfection or acceptability, that’s so weighty. You found freedom from that.
Lynn: I love resting in Jesus. It’s a whole different life than constantly striving to do works that please him so that he might save me by His grace. It says in the Book of Mormon “saved by grace after all we do.” So you have to do all you can first and then hope that it’s enough.
Interviewer: There’re so much that we don’t have time to talk about that’s in the book but one of the things that struck me and I want to mention it because maybe we have some people who are in the Mormon faith watching today but your heart of real concern and brokenness for people who are still in that striving mode, still trying. What would you say to people who are seeking today, that might be listening to us?
Lynn: I would ask Mormons to read the New Testament in context from one end to the other like a child, like you don’t know anything and you want God to teach you and see what God does with your life.
Interviewer: It’s a fascinating book. I thank you for your candor in it and for sharing your story today. I’m sure it’s been a difficult journey for all of you but I see your joy and your freedom in what you’ve written. It’s great to have you here. If you’d like to hear more about Lynn’s story, you can read her book. It’s called Unveiling Grace.