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490 || Leaving Utah and Joseph Smith

You’ve probably been there — an unexpected knock at the door leads to a conversation with some young, Mormon missionaries who are there to convert you. But do they ever succeed? It worked for Lynn Wilder and her husband, Michael. They converted to the Mormon faith after a pair of missionaries came to their Indiana home in 1977. Lynn and Michael were a young, married couple looking for a church home, and they thought the Mormon missionaries were from another Christian denomination — like the Baptists or the Methodists.

The couple dove in headfirst, accepting leadership roles early on and becoming enamored with the welcoming community. It was the community Lynn and Michael were looking for, and they embraced their new identities as a Mormon family, Lynn told CBN.

“The people were wonderful,” Lynn said. “Mormon people just take you in and love on you.”

Even today it’s easy to be impressed by Mormon wives. Growing blog and Instagram sites are full of perfectly dressed children and immaculate homes. And they all look so happy.

Some Unusual Beliefs

For more than 30 years, the Wilders were strict Mormons. Although they were both raised in Protestant homes, they rarely read the Bible. So they were quick to believe some of the Mormon teachings that contradicted their childhood faith. Things like doing good works, marrying another Mormon inside the temple — no rustic barn weddings here— and wearing sacred undergarments that protect them from temptation and evil are what get you into Heaven.

They also believe God was once an earthly man who worked His way to being a deity, Lynn said in her CBN interview. Any man can become a god and rule over his own world populated by spiritual children — but only if he only works hard enough while he’s on Earth. They are taught from a young age that Jesus was the first spirit child of this universe.

Lynn became a professor at Brigham Young University, a Mormon college in Utah, while her husband was tapped to be a high priest in the church.

Reading the Bible

In 2006, Lynn and Michael’s youngest son, Micah, began reading the New Testament while he was serving his two-year mission. Many Mormons have never read the New Testament because they have been taught the Bible was not translated correctly. Instead, they focus on the other books they believe came from God, books they believe correct mistranslations and clarify other things.

Church leaders sent Micah home from his mission early — a disgrace similar to a dishonorable discharge from the Army — after he delivered an impassioned speech about his newfound faith in Jesus to a room full of Mormon missionaries. When Micah came home, he told his parents their church leaders were threatening to excommunicate him because he had embraced Christianity.

Around the same time, Lynn was having doubts of her own. She knew church leaders were still teaching the idea that having dark skin was a curse despite a 1978 proclamation lifting the ban that prevented men of color from holding positions in the priesthood. She also questioned whether the church founder, Joseph Smith, was really a prophet.

This culmination of realizations and events led Lynn, Michael and their other three children to reread the Bible in search of more answers.

“It became all-consuming, almost an obsession,” Lynn said. “I didn’t want to put it down. I didn’t want to breathe or eat or sleep. I just wanted to read about this wonderful God of grace.”

A Way Out

One night, Lynn, Michael, and their daughter, Katie, were watching a movie about Martin Luther when Lynn realized she was at an impasse. She had to decide whether she believed her Mormon faith and her good works were enough to get her into Heaven or whether she believed God’s grace was enough.

“That night, speeding toward the point of no return, I lay facedown on the carpet, arms extended, and cried out to Jesus, ‘I am yours. Save me,’ ” Lynn told Christianity Today. 

It wasn’t easy for the family to leave the Mormon church. They had built up more than 30 years of friendships and were leading prominent lives within the community. Lynn’s very job at Brigham Young University was tied to the church. She knew she would lose all of that if she left the Mormon church.

But for Lynn, having a personal relationship with God was enough.

“When I started reading in the Bible, one of the huge things that hit me … was, ‘Whoa, we sold this God short,’ ” Lynn said. “This God can do anything … He can do all things. When I took that step of faith, He started doing all things for me.”

God provided a way out of the Mormon church for the Wilders. Lynn got a job she hadn’t even applied for. Their Utah home sold the same day they put it on the market, and they moved to another state since Utah is heavily dominated by the Mormon church. The Wilders started their lives over in Florida.

They dove deeper and deeper into the Scriptures, trusting only the Old and New Testaments to know about God.

“The new God I believe in, He’s so awesome that He knows how to put together a Bible that’s infallible,” Lynn said, referencing the other books used in the Mormon faith.

Since that time, the Wilders have devoted their lives to Christ, to the Savior they now have a personal relationship with.

Today, Lynn and Michael run a ministry for former Mormons who are looking for a way out. Their children are in a Christian band that produces music designed to reach people who do not know Jesus.

You can find out more about the Wilders’ outreach and ministry on their website.

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