Starting at the Finish Line: The Gospel of Grace for Mormons by John B. Wallace
Coming out of the Mormon faith to embrace evangelical Christianity is a tough task indeed. Author and practicing dentist, Dr. John Wallace, was in that same predicament, embracing Mormonism from his uncle and then converting to Christianity later. John’s new book, Starting at the Finish Line: The Gospel of Grace for Mormons is not a prosecution of Mormonism but a defense of the gospel, the main tenets being the Christ on the cross, suffering, paying the penalty for our sins (6). To do this, John interacts with the way he was introduced to Mormonism, practiced his former faith, and how he eventually came out of Mormonism. John’s book is one of providing a generous assessment of Mormonism but also seeking to offer an explanation why the Mormon faith is finally at odds with evangelical Christianity.
In chapter 2, Dr. Wallace parlays the evidence we have today for a robust defense of the Bible’s reliability and authority in light of Mormon ideas. He writes, “…Elder McConkie drove the proverbial nail in the Bible’s coffin with one concise statement. Really it is just a paraphrasing of 1 Nephi 13:29: “Satan guided his servants in taking many plain and precious things from the Bible, so that men would stumble and lose their souls. So, if we are to understand Elder McConkie correctly, Satan himself has wrested control of the Bible and made it an instrument to serve his purpose,…(15).” In other words, Satan has guided his servants to corrupt the Biblical record in order to make men stumble and lose their souls. Since, the Book of the Mormon is the ‘most correct of any book on earth,’ Mormon tradition says that the Bible is only seen as reliable if it correctly translated and transcribed, and interpreted. Yet, there is a lack of consistency here, the Bible is either an entirely reliable guide to the faith or it is not.
The chapter that left the biggest imprint for me was the one entitled I Am Undone. Wallace goes on a little detour that ends up being very illuminating. Many times evangelical Christians are accused by Mormons of taking the easy road because of our insistence that believing in Jesus is the way to heaven and provides the necessary motivation for obedience to God. Yet, as Wallace points out, Joseph Smith taught that, “essentially everyone born into the world, with the exception of murderers and sons of perdition (a rarity), is guaranteed entrance into the lowest of the kingdoms of heaven, the telestial kingdom. He taught that adulterers, whore mongers, liars, and all the like-those who never come to faith in Christ in this world or in spirit prison-still go to heaven (47).” The reason why people such as these persons go to the lowest heaven is because they were born into this world and received a physical body (because of this you chose wisely). This kind of theology certainly has a different kind of view of sin, humanity’s entrance into the world, and original sin. The appeal to include as many in the kingdom as possible is still here today in many stripes of Christian circles, yet this view doesn’t square with the truth that our physical birth doesn’t decide our eternal destiny but our spiritual birth as a child of God through faith in Christ.
I enjoyed this book and hope it be read for many looking for the truth .
Thanks to Cross Focused Reviews and B &B Media Group, Inc. for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.