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
A Review of Leaving Mormonism: Why Four Scholars Changed Their Minds, edited by Corey Miller & Lynn K. Wilder, Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 311 pages, paperback, 2017
This book is an 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 these people. 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.