Too often we...enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. John F. Kennedy
Why would four scholars leave the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon) for a personal relationship with the Living God? Exactly. The biblical God is alive—omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent—and relational. The Heavenly Father of Mormonism has a material body of flesh and bones that limits his ability to be all places at once (omnipresence) or to know all things (omniscience) or to have all power (omnipotence). Is he relational? LDS scripture states, "the idea that the Father and the Son dwell in a man's heart is an old sectarian notion and is false."
LDS Church Exodus
Scholars have left the LDS Church over the years, rarely for a relationship with the Jesus of the Bible, instead for atheism or agnosticism. Today, Mormons everywhere are leaving. In 2011 as the crisis of LDS exodus grew, Marlin K. Jensen, now retired general authority, was asked if LDS leaders knew that scores were leaving the faith, typically after discovering troubling aspects of church history online. He responded:
The fifteen men [First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve] really do know, and they really care. And they realize that maybe since Kirtland [1830s], we never have had a period of, I'll call it apostasy, like we're having right now; largely over these [historical] issues.
In response to questioners, in 2014, the LDS Church issued a letter to all leaders directing members with doubts to reliable church sources instead of outside sources like Christian ministries or church apostates. Regardless of in-place measures to present authentic church history and maybe because of them, Latter-day Saints continue to leave.Dieter F. Uchtdorf, church leader, gave this advice—doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith in Mormonism.
In the midst of this exodus, Corey Miller, CEO of the apologetics organization RatioChristi, and I searched to find every scholar with a doctoral degree who had left Mormonism and chosen biblical faith. Surprisingly, we are few. Four of us collaborated to write a book, Leaving Mormonism: Why Four Scholars Changed their Minds (Kregel, 2017) where we give our reasons for leaving and for choosing the God of the Bible. I cannot speak for Corey or the two other book contributors – physicist, Vince Eccles, and Christian author, Latayne Scott. What follows are my reasons.
Reasons I Left and Chose Biblical Faith
First, faith in the God of the Bible is reasonable; the message of the Bible has internal consistency with 40 authors across 60 books over more than 1,500 years. Once I read the Bible with an open heart and mind, there was a beyond-the-natural irresistible prodigious draw. LDS scripture did not have this consistency nor power for me; it frequently contradicts itself. For example, the Book of Mormon says polygamy is an abomination but another book of LDS scripture teaches polygamy is an eternal principle that will be lived in the millennium and the next life by the worthy faithful. The Book of Mormon teaches that God lives in the hearts of the righteous (Alma 34:36). But later scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants says he does not (D&C 130:22). To the rational mind, such contradictions within "Divinely inspired" scripture cannot be reconciled and they do not come from a reasonable God.
Second, faith in the God of the Bible is evidential. The evidence for the historicity of the Bible, for the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus is persuasive. The archeological (25,000 digs plus), physical, historical, botanical, and geographical evidence is so overwhelming for the Bible people, places, and events, it is as if this God actually wants people to know him. More than 5800 manuscripts of the New Testament survive in Greek alone. The Book of Mormon has no geographical, historical, linguistic, animal, DNA or any other evidence to point to its truth or reliability and no original manuscript.
Third, Mormon Teachings and Social Consequences. One of the main ideas I address in the book as a social scientist is the fruit of Mormonism. I found it to have possible negative social consequences. LDS teachings of concern to me: (1) Bible is sometimes "mistranslated" and cannot be trusted, (2) dark skin is a curse, (3) polygamy is an eternal principle, (4) temple works are essential to earn eternal life with your family, (5) godhood is possible for worthy LDS priesthood-holding males, and (6) Mormons are Jews and the only true church. Simply, the Gods of the two faiths have different natures and teach different ways to eternal life. I wonder if LDS teachings are related to social statistics in heavily Mormon Utah, i.e., high rates of prescription drug addiction, pornography viewing online, depression, suicide, bankruptcy, white collar fraud, adult male-to-under-eighteen male and female sexual abuse with the LDS Church not sometimes reporting abusers, and an unusually high percentage of pedophiles in Utah prisons. With God's prodding and a son's plea, I read the Bible.
Fourth, God showed up for me. Besides biblical faith being objectively reasonable and evidential, it has a strange subjective component as well. When I needed to leave BYU because I was leaving the Mormon faith, God got me a job for which I never even applied. A dean simply called me one day, said she had my curriculum vitae in front of her, and would like to offer me a job. I was stunned God could do such a thing. When I lost 30 years of Mormon friends, God was there for me. He sent comfort through prayer, other Christians, and the Word of God. He changed my thinking and that changed me wholly from my core to the outside. I am transformed forever, never to look back. Jesus is enough and I know peace.
Dr. Lynn Wilder and husband Michael founded the ministry Ex-Mormon Christians United for Jesus. Find the ministry website at www.unveilingmormonism.com. They have 3 books: 7 Reasons We Left Mormonism: Quick Doctrinal Guide (ATRI, 2012): Unveiling Grace: The Story of How We Found Our Way Out of the Mormon Church (Zondervan, 2013); and Leaving Mormonism: Why Four Scholars Changed their Minds.