Christian Books for Former Mormons

A couple of months ago I was asked for a list of books to help a former Mormons transition to Protestantism.  I reached out to some friends and we came up with this list.These books are listed in order of complexity and depth, starting with the easiest to read.

Good News for Anxious Christians: 10 Practical Things You Don’t Have to Do

Starting at the Finish Line: The Gospel of Grace for Mormons

The Cross of Christ

An Exploration of Christian Theology

Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview

I also STRONGLY recommend getting a modern English translation of the Bible. I love the King James Version and I think it’s a great translation, I recommend it to all my 400 year old friends. The English language has evolved and some of the phrasing in the KJV is archaic which makes it more difficult to understand. The newer translation were all created consulting the oldest known manuscripts of the Bible and were translated from the original languages so you can trust them to be accurate. Fears of the “Telephone Game” are misplaced. I almost always use the NIV. I also highly recommend reading the Bible in a paraphrase known as “The Message”. It’s available for free on the YouVersion Bible App created by LifeChurch.tv.

I recommend a fresh reading of Romans, Galatians and Hebrews with an attempt to dismiss everything you’ve been taught about these scriptures. Try to read them as if this is the first time you’ve read. If you can read them each in one sitting I think your experience will be even better. Don’t view the chapters as natural stopping points.

Lastly there is a study program called LDS Transitions that was made by Christians in Utah who saw a need for it based on the large number of people that have started to transition out of the LDS church.

My favorite book for all Christians is “The Divine Conspiracy” by Dallas Willard. It’s probably not the best book to start with as part of a transition, but sometime in your life you should read it.

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23 thoughts on “Christian Books for Former Mormons

  1. Thanks for the suggestions Tim, now that I feel like I am finally grasping Christianity, I really do see almost all the philosophy and science I have read over the years very differently. It is humbling and bewildering at the same time.

    I did not get Christianity until I had become a complete atheist and approached the questions of the New Testament in a more formal philosophical way. I stopped praying and reading the scriptures years ago. But as I grasped Christianity, all that all of the bits and pieces that I had memorized of the New Testament fit together with a different meaning. I also saw more clearly the importance of orthodoxy.

    Based on my own experience, I think intellectually-bent Mormons would do well to approach the epistles as philosophy not as spiritual knowledge from God. This means reading it in the easiest-to-read translation possible and focusing on the ideas, not the language or the spirit. Mormons should also be aware that Joseph Smith was a type of Protestant, and his theology was built on a Protestant foundation. If you spend the effort to learn epistles well enough to be conversant about the concepts, almost all of Joseph Smith’s teachings become clearer.

  2. The last time I discussed Bible versions with a Mormon, he said he felt the newer versions are inferior because information gets distorted as it passes from one person to another. He apparently assumed that the new translations were taken from the KJV rather than Greek manuscripts—that are more reliable than the ones the KJV comes from.
    I was surprised by his assumptions.

  3. Can I shout out for a study Bible? The crossways ESV study Bible has an amazing layout and some great commentary from a faithful perspective.

  4. “But as I grasped Christianity, all that all of the bits and pieces that I had memorized of the New Testament fit together with a different meaning.”

    I think I can really relate to what you are saying. Although I would not say exactly, that I approached Christianity from a philosophical nor scientific mindset.
    The book of Romans was the “Aha!” moment for me. I read it several times from beginning to end, and all of a sudden, it began making perfect sense in a completely new way. And was actually puzzled as to how I could have missed the meaning of Paul’s words in all the times I had read it before.

  5. @cal, & everyone

    I am happy you are glad. I am truly grateful for all of you guys that hung around. The discussions I have had on this blog has really been the “word of God” to me. I am truly grateful.

  6. Jared,

    When were you an atheist?

    You said you served a mission, so I’m wondering when and why you went down that path.

  7. Solange:
    “And was actually puzzled as to how I could have missed the meaning of Paul’s words in all the times I had read it before.”

    A long time ago, I decided I wanted to learn everything in the scriptures about the Second Coming of Christ. After I was”topic hunting” this subject, I was stunned, utterly shocked, at how much the books (most the Bible) thread the Second Coming into the texts from the scriptures which I have read again and again which I just didn’t see it before. So, I can really relate to what you are saying.

  8. I had “testimony” of the Mormon church to some degree until I was about 30 years old. I continued to believe in the Spirit as deep intuition but I did not believe we could say anything sensible about God, I accepted mythology as human attempts at saying things that could not be said. I accepted God as a fact in November. I became what could be best described as half-Protestant in December.

  9. “…I did not believe we could say anything sensible about God, I accepted mythology as human attempts at saying things that could not be said.”

    This is about the best explanation of my view of God. Thanks for articulating it. Its why I’m still fairly comfortable in Mormonism, even if I have felt the tug of other Christian traditions for a number of years now.

  10. Okay Jared,

    Let me see if I understand what you are saying.

    You grew up in a strong LDS family, always believed the LDS Gospel, went on a mission and then around age 30 starting thinking of your beliefs in a mythological way.

    After all this you believe God to be a fact only since last November.

    Am I getting this right?

    If so, when were you an atheist?

    And how is a Latter Day Saint “half” Protestant?

  11. Speaking of NT Wright, here is his take on the NIV from his book _Justification_.

    “I must register one strong protest against one particular translation. When the New International Version was published in 1980, I was one of those who hailed it with delight. I believed its own claim about itself, that it was determined to translate exactly what was there, and inject no extra paraphrasing or interpretative glosses. This contrasted so strongly with the then popular New English Bible, and promised such an advance over the then rather dated Revised Standard Version, that I recommended it to students and members of the congregation I was then serving. Disillusionment set in over the next two years, as I lectured verse by verse through several of Paul’s letters, not least Galatians and Romans. Again and again, with the Greek text in front of me and the NIV beside it, I discovered that the translators had had another principle, considerably higher than the stated one: to make sure that Paul should say what the broadly Protestant and evangelical tradition said he said…. I do know that if a church only, or mainly, relies on the NIV it will, quite simply, never understand what Paul was talking about. This is a large claim, and I have made it good, line by line, in relation to Romans in my big commentary, which prints the NIV and the NRSV and then comments on the Greek in relation to both of them. Yes, the NRSV sometimes lets you down, too, but nowhere near as frequently or as badly as the NIV.”

    After reading the NIV Study Bible myself, I would have to agree with Professor Wright on this. As an alternative to the KJV, I have personally enjoyed the New Oxford Annotated Bible and the HarperCollins Study Bible (both of which use the NRSV). But, then again, I’m still a practicing Mormon.

  12. JT, the concerns about Protestant bias in modern translations is not unfounded, if misplaced and over blown by Mormons. I don’t like the NIV either (though I like it better than the KJV, by far). Too much room in the translation philosophy for theological conditioning – or what Wright explains.

    I will say that the more literal ESV seems to be both very accurate to the original texts and also popular with Evangelicals. The NRSV gets a bad wrap as the “PC-Bible”, but I find myself trusting the inherent biases of secular translators over those who approach translation with theological skin in the game.

    Tim, I bought “The Message” for my oldest daughter a few years ago – to get a good grasp of the overall narrative, but I find he cuts corners that can be dangerous if used too frequently for advanced study.

  13. “the concerns about Protestant bias in modern translations is not unfounded, if misplaced and over blown by Mormons”

    Not sure that I’ve seen a strain within Mormonism specifically objecting to the NIV (as opposed to objecting to non-KJV translations generally), though I am aware of several Mormon academics who are not so keen on it for reasons similar to those outlined by Wright. But I think this is a fairly common view among academics generally – not just Mormon academics.

  14. I prefer the NRSV as a study text, but read the NIV with my family. Of course when studying the NT, I usually just read it in Greek and bypass the whole issue of translation.

    I love N.T. Wright, but he has his own idiosyncratic reading of Paul so it is a bit of the pot calling the kettle black. The real issue with Paul is that he crams a lot of information into a very small space while making liberal use of Greek rhetorical forms and syntax. Translating the gospels is a cakewalk compared to translating Paul. I’m guessing no single English translation could possibly capture all of the nuance of the original.

    I agree that it is profitable to read Paul philosophically. He was very clearly trained in philosophical argumentation and used that style in his letters, especially Romans.

  15. Reading in Greek would be the preferred way, no doubt. But my French doesn’t count as Greek.

    Therein lies the trouble: few of us can actually read in the Greek, and no translation will be perfect, even from English to French. We’ve all seen the crazy signs in a foreign language translated to English. So much is lost in translation.

    I recommend reading a number of translations to get closer to the original meanings.

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