Lynn Wilder and her husband were quintessential Mormons.
Lynn had served for 8 years as a professor at Brigham Young University, the flagship school of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Their eldest sons had completed two-year missions assignments, and their daughter was demonstrating a strong faith in the LDS Church’s founder, Joseph Smith.
Then, as Lynn explains it, their world came crashing down. In 2006 their third son, Micah, was only three weeks from completing his two-year mission when he called to report that he was being sent home early in disgrace.
His sin: He read the New Testament and confessed to a roomful of missionaries that the Bible offered a different Jesus than the LDS Church — a Jesus of grace, not works. He professed belief in Jesus and confessed he had found a deep and genuine faith.
Church leaders told his parents that Micah had the spirit of the Devil in him and sent him home to face the LDS high council. To prevent excommunication, the Wilders put their son on a plane out of Utah.
Before entering the jet way, Micah pleaded, “Mom and Dad, please read the New Testament.”
A call to scripture
They did. And as Lynn tells it in her book, Unveiling Grace: The Story of How We Found Our Way Out of the Mormon Church, “I heeded Micah’s advice…. As I read [the Bible], I became increasingly consumed by reading about the God of grace. I barely ate or slept. It’s all I wanted to do.”
Several months later, after watching the film “Luther” with her family, her heart pounded as she faced a similar struggle: “Did I believe the Mormon system of obedience to laws and ordinances would secure my forgiveness? Or did I believe what the Bible taught, that Jesus alone was the Way, the Truth, and the Life?”
That night she lay face-down on the carpet, arms extended, and cried out to Jesus, “I am yours. Save me.”
From that point on God became personal, she reports. “I discovered this Jesus could not be confined by the laws and ordinances of a religion. Jesus is real. This palpable relationship transformed me.”
Her husband and daughter followed in faith. They left the Mormon Church and God provided another job for Lynn. “This is the Jesus my family and I know now. He loves me personally. I devour His word and find him there. He knows me and teaches me. I do not need the laws and ordinances of the Mormon Church to be saved. Only my beloved Jesus.”
Being held captive
Wilder’s story reveals several truths about those held captive in counterfeit forms of Christianity.
First, they “accept” the Bible. Mormons consider the King James Version – “insofar as it is correctly translated” – to be one of the four standard works of the LDS Church. But for all practical purposes, the Bible takes a back seat to the alleged revelations God gave LDS founder Joseph Smith.
In a similar manner, Jehovah’s Witness say they believe the Bible is God’s Word. Yet the official New World Translation has stripped away the deity of Christ and salvation by grace so that Witnesses cannot find the truth in their own organization’s Bible.
Second, Scripture remains a most powerful evangelistic tool. The Wilders’ son simply requested that they read the Bible, and the Word of God proved itself “living and effective and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb. 4:12).
Third, God redeems people out of darkness and uses their experiences to magnify His work in their lives. The apostle Paul was a killer of Christians, but after his conversion he never failed to share his testimony of how the risen Jesus changed his life.
Think of how God is using the Wilders to reach Mormons in ways that non-Mormons never could.
Lynn Wilder’s breath-taking testimony reminds us of the power of God’s written word. We don’t always have to explain it or even understand its more difficult texts. Mostly, we just need to urge our friends to read the Bible and then allow its Author to draw them to faith in Jesus.
This column first appeared Jan. 28, 2014, in The Pathway, the news journal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.