In my life as an editor, I see a lot of new books. They parade across my desk for consideration as resources I might feature or review for the audiences I serve. When I initially look at them, I glance to see whether their subject matter will fit the themes of the publications I work for. For the ones that do, I take another look to see if they look like a match. And if they do, they go into a pile that will get a closer examination.
I can’t afford the time it would take to read every book, so it’s a rare volume that captures my attention so thoroughly that I actually stop to read the first time I see it. One such book caught my eye a few months ago, and I started reading. I didn’t want to stop, but I couldn’t take the time to sit and read it at work. So I brought it home and read it on my own time.
That was before the book actually released. Now that it’s available for purchase, I hope my review will help a few more people find this compelling resource.
(Published by Zondervan, 2013)
What this book offers
This book tells Wilder’s own story of her experiences in the Mormon Church–and in leaving that church. She joined the Mormon Church as a young adult, with her husband, then raised her children in that faith community. She spent 30 years as a Mormon before her son’s introduction to the Jesus of the New Testament created a family crisis and a faith crisis and eventually led the family out of the Mormon Church.
Wilder’s Mormon credentials are part of what makes this story compelling. She lived in the heart of Mormon country, near Salt Lake City, Utah. She taught as a professor at Brigham Young University. She and her husband were respected members of the community and given significant responsibilities within the church. For 30 years, she was committed and enthusiastic in her faith. She is qualified to explain how “Mormon doctrine sounds terribly Christian, but it’s not. Religious words such as grace, salvation, and atonement have different meanings for Christians and Mormons.”
In her life as a Mormon, Wilder did not understand how dramatically her church’s teachings differed from the Bible’s claims. In the book, she reflects on ways the Christ of the Bible graciously reached out to her throughout her life (she calls this Jesus “the veiled Dancer of truth”), until finally she began reading the New Testament and she encountered him in a way she had not before.
The book is worth reading just for the Wilder family story, but it also contains helpful information that gives the reader a better understanding of the Mormon faith. Much of this information is embedded in the memoir itself, and some can be found in the back of the book: a chart comparing doctrines of Mormonism with what the Bible teaches and a glossary of terms used in the Mormon faith.
What I liked about this book
Wilder is open in sharing her story, and I appreciate the opportunity to learn from her experiences. This book is as educational as it is engaging, providing an inside look at the Mormon Church that helped me better understand not only the doctrine, but also the lifestyle of people in that faith community. She helped me develop a better grasp on what in Mormonism appeals to people.
She has written this book with a compassionate and respectful approach toward her Mormon friends. Her background has equipped her to write about the Mormon Church in a way that sharply contrasts with resources that villianize Mormons and disrespect their faith. While I disagree with Mormon doctrine and believe the Bible’s revelations are adequate in themselves, I know that like me, Mormons are sincere in their beliefs and motivated by a desire to live in right standing with God. I appreciate the experience of reading a book that acknowledges the many ways Mormon doctrine differs from biblical theology, but still treats the Mormon people with respect and love.
What I would change about this book
At times, the book gets mired in explaining terms or practices that are mentioned in the narrative. These are important points of clarification, but I sometimes wished they could have been given later, or that Wilder had simply referred readers to a complete explanation in the appendix. At other times, I was confused by something she referred to, and I wanted explanation. At the same time, I understand why it would be difficult to balance this need to explain a system of faith and lifestyle that defined 30 years of her life.
I also felt some frustration at times when the narrative jumped around as Wilder followed a theme, then had to backtrack to fill in more of the story. This is a common challenge with memoir, and while I sometimes felt confused over the timeline, the overall story is very clear and mostly easy to follow.
Who should read it
This is a valuable resource for anyone who wants to better understand Mormonism and how its doctrines differ from biblical Christianity. In fact, I recommend it for any Christian.
This would also be a helpful resource for anyone who belongs to the Mormon church and is willing to more closely examine their own faith from the testimony of someone who once believed as they do. In Wilder’s words, “God is already drawing in and working with many dear Mormon souls to show them the truth.”
© 2013 Amy Simpson.