Review: Leaving Mormonism
I was sent this book (and another that I must review soon) before Christmas and the publisher, quite understandably wishes me to review it. I am very happy to do so, since this is a fine resource
This book is a great idea. Four former Mormons with academic credentials and a passion for the truth write about why they left Mormonism and add a critique of it from their own perspectives. Each writer communicates clearly. None is mean spirited in their criticism of their former belief, though all are keen to inform readers not only of the errors of the Latter-Day Saints — errors which lead to a particular worldview — but also of the chameleonic nature of Mormon teaching as it seeks to adapt to criticism and exposure.
Corey Miller’s chapter, “In Search of the Good Life” asks whether experiencing the good is objectively possible under Mormon teaching. His answer begins with his personal testimony of being a Mormon with descendants reaching all the way back to acquaintances of Joseph Smith himself. His essay deals with the nature of Mormon testimony and the difficulty of achieving “salvation.” Miller is a philosopher and has provided excellent notes to go with his essay, even briefly outlining Alvin Plantinga’s response to de jure objections to Christian faith in his Warranted Christian Belief (70 n.41).
The next chapter is by LaTayne Scott, “I Was There, I Believed.” She has been given enough room to write a long but interesting chapter consisting, as all the contributions do, of her testimony and an analysis. Scott’s testimony is eloquently written and of real help for someone trying to understand the grip that Mormon culture exerts upon its members. Of particular help in this chapter is the way the author persuades the reader to look upon Mormonism as a worldview with its distinctive (and false) approach to truth.
Lynn Wilder’s piece includes her discomfort at encountering many contradictions concerning things like racism and polygamy. There is also her son’s story, wherein he was challenged while on mission to read the New Testament. Upon returning to testify he got up and confessed that a person needed Jesus and Him alone (163). This son, Micah, begged his parents to simply read the NT like a child would. Wilder read John’s Gospel and her eyes began to be opened, though not for some time did she and her husband leave the fold (in 2008). The “reasons” part of her article details numerous social problems with Mormonism, again focusing on racism and polygamy, but expanding on each.
The last of the four writers is the scientist Vince Eccles. He became a rebel against religion after learning about his divorced mother’s being judged for some of her choices. He writes about his fascination with parts of the Bible (e.g. Matthew and Exodus) and his investigations into the reliability of the Scriptures, but he does hold to a non-literal reading of the early chapters of Genesis, and to theistic evolution, and there are certainly one or two liberal-critical influences upon him. He records crises of faith which even had him contemplating becoming an orthodox Jew. He also seems to have universalist leanings. Of the four authors in the book, I felt Eccles was the least satisfying. In fact, even though his essay is of interest, I think it was a mistake to include him in the book.
Miller and Wilder complete the book with a chapter on the New Atheism. They inserted this chapter because many ex-Mormons become disillusioned and fall pray to the arguments of the New Atheists. It’s a nice bonus at the end of the book.
This is an absorbing book, written with head and heart. I liked the first two contributions to be the most helpful; the one by Eccles was a disappointment. I think the book, Eccles’ chapter apart, is a very good buy.
Paul Henebury Bio
Paul Martin Henebury is a native of Manchester, England and a graduate of London Theological Seminary and Tyndale Theological Seminary (MDiv, PhD). He has been a Church-planter, pastor and a professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics. He was also editor of the Conservative Theological Journal (suggesting its new name, Journal of Dispensational Theology, prior to leaving that post). He is now the President of Telos School of Theology.
I also have a copy of this book for review. Due to border issues I didn’t get my copy until just a couple of weeks ago. I am still in the first testimony by Corey Miller. I found it a little hard slogging at one point, but as I am working through it am finding it very valuable. It’s not your usual approach to Mormon apologetics, but in fact I think it is more powerful. If someone is in regular contact with Mormons, it is worth making careful study to absorb its message.
I think Lynn Wilder’s sons have a singing group with a unique ministry to Mormons. Not my kind of music, but a strong testimony to God’s grace. It might have been linked in the filings here, can’t remember for sure.