Unveiling Grace: A Book Review

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.

The bookUnveiling Grace

Unveiling Grace: The Story of How We Found Our Way out of the Mormon Church by Lynn K. Wilder

(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.”

  1. A great review. I wish I could get the book in this part of the world.

  2. Lynn Wilder says:

    Hi, Helmut, where are you? The book is available online at Christian Book, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or even Walmart.com. Or you can simply go to the book page http://www.unveilinggracethebook.com and we will ship it to you anywhere in the world. Hope this helps. Feel free to write back if neither of those options works for you.

  3. jr says:

    Just because someone has been a member of a religion for 30 years or was born into it does not mean
    that person knows everything about that religion or really believes everything that religion teaches.
    Lynn Wilder said she liked the family values of the LDS religion so that is a clue they never bothered to learn more.
    From what she writes it is obvious she did not bother to really learn everything about the LDS religion. She states half
    truths and down right lies. She also sounds like a broken record by spewing off a list of everything that is wrong
    with the LDS relligion. What she claims has been claimed by critics since the days of Joseph Smith. Not a single
    false claim has changed in over 100 years.
    Also Lynn was Associate Professoor NOT a Professor at BYU and that is a big difference. There are people who were with
    Micah Wilder as missionaries in Florida for the LDS church who know what he really did during his mission and it was not good. Micah and his parents became angry that he was being sent home early and dishonorably instead of being angry about his behavior. Also very telling (Micah can do no wrong). With all who leave the LDS church and become poster boys and girls for the Evangelicals and therefore known to many people, the real truths are never told, two of what I already mentioned concerning the Wilders. Ed Decker is a good example: he claims he left the church but he was excommunicated for adultery. His ex wife confirmed many things about him and they are not good yet he lies about what really happened while he was LDS and he lies about the LDS religion as Ms. Wilder does.
    The LDS church does not lie about its beliefs. New members are gradually taught everything over time and all members are encouraged to study and learn on their own. Is the church leadership and members perfect? NO! And we do not claim to be perfect. Like any religion the LDS church has made mistakes. It is sad that ex members who portray the LDS church in a negative light people believe every word. Sad. A lot of LDS beliefs are in line with teachings of some of the Ante Nicene Fathers. But because of hate and bigotry and false assumptions people will not bother to research and ask questions on their own but choose to believe half truths and caricatures spouted off by disillusioned ex members.
    I am glad the Wilders and others found a religion that fits them but they should do what they claim the LDS church does not do, tell the truth.

    • wheatie says:

      For those who are not familiar with the LDS Church, what JR says may make people wonder about Lynn’s book. I don’t know Lynn Wilder, but I just read her book. I also grew up in the Salt Lake Valley as a Christian and I know that what Lynn says about LDS beliefs is true. From what JR said, I don’t think he/she read the book at all, but is just writing a letter against the book in order to attack anyone writing against the LDS church. It’s especially striking that JR says that Lynn must not have learned much about the LDS faith, showing that he/she did not read about all of the positions that she and her husband held and how often they went to the temple.
      The LDS church’s beliefs about God and Jesus Christ especially are strikingly different from orthodox Christian belief, so that the two beliefs could never be reconciled. Either one has to be true and the other false, or vice versa. As one of the LDS Prophets said “As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become.” That is a good summation of their theology, much like Lynn Wilder presented it, and is irreconcilably different than Biblical Christian doctrine.

    • Jill Richan says:

      I’m not sure I know who I am replying to, however I read Unveiling Grace by Lynn Wilder. The thing that rang true to me in her book was that we get such an ego lift when we accomplish things within the Mormon Faith, and we learn to rely on PEOPLE rather than the Light of Christ. I truly believe we need to be centered around our Savior Jesus Christ, and grateful that Joseph Smith (being just a man) was able to bring forth this gospel. No matter what we believe about Joseph Smith, it should not be the foundation for believing the Mormon doctrine. I also believe we need get over ourselves and let the Spirit of Christ in our hearts to guide and direct us. We will do no wrong if we allow the Spirit to guide us. I would also like to testify of my Savior Jesus Christ, and add that I believe in modern day Prophets and revelation. We just don’t seem to learn from our past sins to not keep repeating them, and therefore I am grateful for any inspiration I can get. Including Lynn Wilder’s. I am not afraid to find out for myself the principles and doctrines I chose to follow. Would like some feed back about my reply.

      Also I just wanted to ask about Lynn’s oldest son who was reinstated after his excommunication. Why? Maybe I read that wrong?
      Jill Richan – a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

      • Amy says:

        Hi, Jill. Thanks for commenting. I appreciated reading Lynn’s story in ‘Unveiling Grace,’ and it helped me understanding more about beliefs and practices in the Mormon Faith. I don’t have that background myself (I’m an evangelical Christian) and I don’t have any personal connection to Lynn, so I can’t clarify anything in the book. But I believe she has some connection to this ministry: http://unveilingmormonism.com/. You might consider seeing if you can get in touch with her through that site, or reading more about the perspective of the folks who are part of it. I like what you said about being centered around Jesus Christ rather than the teachings of any one person–and about getting over ourselves. As God told the ancient people of Israel, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). I believe we all need to resist the temptation to allow teachers and preachers (as faithful as they may be) to define our faith for us rather than continually seek God’s own revelation of himself through the Bible.

    • Claire says:

      I agree with your review. I also found this book horribly written and condescending. I was surprised to read that she worked on the university level. This book hardly compares to scholarly works that I read while attending the University of Arizona. I was very disappointed that this book was about a third- grade level of reading. I was referred to this book, by a personal blog. I still find the blog lovely, but this book was an entire dissapointment.

© 2013 Amy Simpson.