Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Second Look at Mormonism: "Just Read the New Testament"

Craig* was and still remains one of my top ten favorite students from all my sixteen years of teaching.  He's the type of young man whose intelligence, work ethic, and open kindness stay with you long after he has moved on.  He's also the only student I ever offered to do an Independent Study for, mainly because "Independent Study" is college slang for "zero salary."  Working for free just didn't make sense to me...until he asked for my help.

During that semester, Craig came by to see me every week, the two of us discussing the audio lectures I'd been sending him and any questions he had about the literature.  He easily quoted Scripture, had done mission work, and lived a morally upright life.  His open smile, the way he carried himself--just everything about him made me love him as if he were my own child.  At the time, I thought how blessed I would be if I had a son who grew up to have the character qualities this young man did.

Yet, I struggled with one thing.  Craig was a committed Mormon.

He did not believe Jesus Christ was the one and only Son of God.  He did not believe faith in Jesus Christ was the only way to attain entrance into heaven.  Instead, Craig believed Joseph Smith's Book of Mormon to be a complementary, if not superior, text to The Bible.  His was a works-based faith where men sought to achieve heaven and god-hood by their good works.

My heart was broken for this beautiful young man's lost-ness. To this day, I am still burdened for Craig's soul because I know the God of the New Testament and the Jesus of The Bible are not the same God and Jesus found in The Book of Mormon.  I can't see a photograph of him, his wife, and his sons on Facebook without my heart being crushed for him to know the truth.  Not a week goes by that I don't pray for God to send him someone to show him the truth of the real Jesus.

Perhaps Craig's story is why Lynn Wilder's Unveiling Grace: The Story of How We Found Our Way Out of the Mormon Church reached out to me and begged to be read.  The text is an easy-read autobiography detailing her family's thirty years spent in the Mormon church.

Wilder breaks her text into three parts.  The first third demonstrates how she and her husband found their way into the Mormon church, their life as a typical Mormon family with duties in the church, and Wilder's less-than-traditional work as a professor seeking tenure at BYU (Brigham Young University) in Utah.

Part Two illustrates the part of her family's life when their hearts begin to be burdened that things were not right in Utah's Mormon culture where, among other things, polygamy and racism still existed in the mainstream Mormon church.  In the midst of this heart turmoil, their son, Micah, broke from Mormonism and called upon his family to "just read the New Testament," believing that if they did, they, too, would see the discrepancies between the words of Christ and the words of Joseph Smith.

The final third of the book describes her entire family's attempt to start their lives over in Florida, leaving behind the Mormon church.  This section is chock full of Scripture as Wilder shows over and over again where God showed her truths in New Testament Scripture that illuminated the twisted truth she had believed for thirty years in Mormonism. 

At the very end of the narrative, she then provides a "Quick Doctrinal Comparison" between Mormonism and The Bible, giving not interpretations but merely quotes of Mormon Scripture and Bible Scripture.

Wilder's text is a must read for anyone with friends or relatives who are Mormon.  It is eye opening.  It is sad.  It is real.

And "Craig"--if you're reading this, know that I do still pray for you to find the truth, to believe in your heart that Jesus is the only way to eternal life in heaven.

I am extending the same challenge to you that Micah extended to his mother: just read the New Testament.

I challenge you to commit yourself to reading the Words of Jesus Christ and compare them to The Book of Mormon, to the Mormon Doctrine & Covenants.  Do not blindly accept the religion of your youth; do not be deceived by pride or fearful of what you may find, but test the Scriptures.

I honestly believe if you will seek the truth of God, you will find Him--not just for the sake of your soul but for your wife and little boys as well.

*My former student's name has been changed to protect his identity.


  1. I would love to borrow this book, if you don't mind. My heart is burdened, too, (and frankly, a little confused) about Mormon friends and the real crux of differences in our faiths. Beautifully and lovingly written.

  2. You sound like a wonderful person, though I'm confused about what you think Mormon beliefs actually are. Did this student tell you, or did you hear them from somewhere else?

    I say this because I am a Mormon (slang term for member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and we absolutely believe that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God, and that only through Him can we be saved (the Book of Mormon says this several times).

    Also of note, we Mormons love the New Testament! I try to read a chapter from it every day, and have read it in its entirety several times. It brings me closer to God, just like the Book of Mormon. I recommend that you give that book a read as well.

    1. Hi Brian. I'm sorry I didn't explain myself clearly--yes, he believed Jesus was God's son, but the Mormon God the Father and God the Son is different from the trinity of the New Testament where God the Father/Son/Holy Spirit are one God in three persons. From my reading of the LDS Articles, Mormons believe God the Father and Son were two separate physical people--God the Father and God the son both dwelling on earth, both physical persons who lived on earth and then died (Lucifer and Jesus being both equal brothers of a physical God the Father), not One divine being (who was always divine before the world's and humanity's creation).

      A chief difference I see between The Book of Mormon and The New Testament is the concept that grace only saves us "after" our works can get us into heaven. (2 Nephi 25:23) versus The New Testament's Ephesians 2:8, which says "By grace are you saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." Also, Isaiah 64:6 says our works are nothing more than "filthy rags" to God. The New Testament shows we who love God trust in Jesus' sacrifice on the cross alone for our entrance into heaven. We work not to earn our salvation since we cannot but to show our love to God. And once we are dead, no prayers, post-death baptisms on a person's behalf, etc. can move us from hell to a first, second, third heaven.

      I know the key difference between my reading of The New Testament is I believe that text to be without error and that the LDS Article 8 believes only in the Bible's inerrancy only "as far as it is translated correctly." A few decades ago, I might have believed that, too, but there are so many new translations that have gone back to the original texts to compare hundreds of virtually identical copies of those original texts (minus typographical errors or other minor errors that don't affect meaning)--I believe the Bible is 100% trustworthy. It existed first and has been here much longer than The Book of Mormon. I know the Mormon doctrine implies any differences between the Book of Mormon and The New Testament mean the Bible was translated wrong and The Book of Mormon set it right.

      That is all it boils down to--believing the Bible is without error and that any other text or prophet that says something opposite of what The Bible says isn't "correcting" Scripture but is providing false teaching.

      I know that only the Spirit can show you truth in the New Testament as the only truth, and I know that's not me. Scripture tells us to test the prophets (Acts 17:10-12) not through prayer or visions but by looking at Scripture.

      Don't believe me or any other person. We are all flawed humans living out a short span on this earth. I challenge you to test The Book of Mormon against the truth that has withstood the test of close to two thousand years--The Bible, not the other way around. Test your prophet, Joseph Smith, against Scriptures as well. And I thank you for reading.

  3. No offense, but your post suggests you've been very misinformed about Mormonism. Your description of what we believe aligns more with "what evangelicals think Mormons believe" more than "what Mormons actually believe."

    If you have any questions, feel free to ask and I'll clarify anything I can.

    1. Sure. I confirmed a few things with a man who was a Mormon but who left the faith, so I'm unsure which points are not congruent with your beliefs. I would appreciate you explaining where your beliefs differ from those points I put in the earlier response.

  4. Brian, what Jennifer said is absolutely correct in her description of what mormons believe. She sites the articles of faith that the LDS Church officially issued as a declaration of what a faithful Mormon should believe in, as well as quotes official LDS Book of Mormon Scripture (the only slight discrepancy is that Jennifer refers to the Father as having lived on earth when in fact the mormons teach that he grew up on a different planet and went through his own cycle of progression similar to what they teach we are doing here on earth, but she understood the implication). I was a mormon for 20 years. I know what we were taught to believe and what was implied that we believe. Please as soon as you can get a copy, you should read the book "Unveiling Grace" by Lynn Wilder, and read the New Testament as a child would without the silkscreens of the LDS church telling you what to think and how to interpret from the words. Let the Word of God (aka the Bible) set you free as it has set me free to live in Jesus.