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Micah Wilder Passport to Heaven Part 2

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever
The Truth Network Radio
June 14, 2021 9:36 pm

Micah Wilder Passport to Heaven Part 2

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever

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June 14, 2021 9:36 pm

Micah Wilder was an LDS missionary for 2 years of his life, a time when he discovered the Jesus he never knew. This week Bill and Eric ask Micah about his new book, Passport to Heaven, and find out how God found a young man and brought him to Himself.

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Viewpoint on Mormonism, the program that examines the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from a biblical perspective. Viewpoint on Mormonism is sponsored by Mormonism Research Ministry. Since 1979, Mormonism Research Ministry has been dedicated to equipping the body of Christ with answers regarding the Christian faith in a manner that expresses gentleness and respect. And now, your host for today's Viewpoint on Mormonism. Our thanks to Adams Road Band for that musical introduction.

Welcome to this edition of Viewpoint on Mormonism. I'm your host, Bill McKeever, founder and director of Mormonism Research Ministry, and with me today is Eric Johnson, my colleague at MRM. Well, you've heard the music, and now we have the man behind the music, you might say, Micah Wilder, although quite technically, that piano solo that you hear at the beginning and ending of our show is played by Micah's brother, Matt, who is also very much a part of what Micah does in ministry. In fact, Matt plays all over the place doing piano solos, and Micah, he also plays with you and the band as well sometimes, doesn't he?

Yes, he does. He's a full-time part of Adams Road. And of course, we want to talk about this week, your book, Passport to Heaven, the true story of a zealous Mormon missionary who discovers the Jesus he never knew. Now, before we jump into your experience as a missionary, I think it would help some of our listeners to know your parents, Michael and Lynn Wilder, they were not born in the covenant. They were converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Why don't you tell us a little bit about that? Yeah, so my parents grew up in the Midwest in Indiana, and they were graduate students at Ball State University. My mother had been raised in a very traditional Methodist home, and my father in a Southern Baptist home.

In fact, his grandfather was a horseback preacher. And they were home studying, and two Mormon missionaries came and knocked on their door. And they were really enamored by these young men, and they were enamored by the message that they brought and the family and moral centeredness of the church. And they were eventually drawn into the doctrines of Mormonism, drawn into that community, and they were baptized. And so the four of us children were raised in the church.

And it was really the identity of our lives growing up. You talk about how your mother ends up taking a job at Brigham Young University. And I got the impression—I don't know how you couldn't get the impression—you weren't too happy about leaving all your friends in Indiana to go to Utah. Why don't you tell us about that?

Yeah. Well, it's funny because not only was I, you know, being asked to leave the only home in life that I had ever known, but there was kind of a stigma about the Utah Mormons for those of us that were in the quote-unquote mission field. And so we kind of saw the Utah Mormons as the non-real Mormons because they didn't have to live in a non-Mormon environment. And so I just wasn't excited about going to the culture of Mormonism, of changing my life. But of course, the experience of moving there actually really grew on me.

And I realized that being in a Mormon-saturated community was an opportunity for me to really stand out amongst my peers and try to get God to notice me by my zealous adherence to the laws of Mormonism. Micah, we are recommending this book. Bill read it in three days, but I read it in one, so I think I'm going to get brownie.

Eat me again. Yeah, but it is a page-turner. This book really is.

You did a great job with it. We want to talk about the Missionary Training Center. So yesterday we talked about how you became a full-time worker at the local temple, because in those days you had to be 19 to be a missionary, so you had a year to kind of wait. So you spent one semester at BYU, and then you spent a few months working as a full-time worker. So you get to the Missionary Training Center. The way you wrote it, it sure seems like you had a lot of pride going in as this 19-year-old missionary.

Is that a common attitude? I think it is, and I think the reason why is because our pride was bolstered by what our calling was. And our calling as missionaries was that we were unique, set apart representatives not only of the church, but of Jesus Christ himself. I mean, that was part of our setting apart experience, and calling was being given this mantle of representation of Christ himself. And so I think that we saw ourselves as a spiritual group, as people who were uniquely chosen by our leaders to go out and to do this wonderful and unique work, and that was to bring converts into the only true and living church. And I believe that with all my heart, and so I saw that as an opportunity that God could use me to bring people to salvation. A lot of what your book is about is how God is sovereign, because when you went to the Missionary Training Center, you were scheduled to go to Mexico City for your mission, but that doesn't happen. So when I was in the Missionary Training Center, I was there for nine weeks, and a couple weeks in I had a kind of a health crisis where my lung collapsed, and that experience ultimately led my mission call to being changed to Orlando, Florida. And I reflect on that in the book, and I still think about that all these years later, about how there were so many distinct and unique experiences and people that God placed in my life throughout the course of the two-year mission in Orlando, Florida, that led me to his grace, right? And his hand, and his fingerprints were so evident in my life. And I look back and I think about, had my mission call never changed? Had I gone to Mexico City, Mexico as a 19-year-old Mormon? Where would I be today?

And that's an answer that I don't have, but I do know that God is sovereign and that he was drawing me into a relationship with him even long before I went on my mission. But this kind of course correction of sending me to Orlando was such an important part of me finally coming to the truth. Now you're lung collapsing. That's pretty serious. Did they ever discover why that happened? The official diagnosis is a spontaneous pneumothorax, so it's a spontaneous lung collapse. And really the only thing that they told me was that it's something that is more common among people of my body type. So I'm 6'3", and I'm pretty thin, and it was just one of those things that happened sometimes with people that have more stretched out bodies. But I think of it as God just poked me in the back and right through my back and into my lung, and it was a part of the necessary process that led me to the gospel of Christ. And so I'm glad that it happened.

Before we get off the subject of the MTC, I've got to ask you this though. What's it like going into the Missionary Training Center with a lot of other, at this time, 19-year-olds, because this is prior to Thomas Monson lowering the age to 18, how is it going into this probably a big auditorium, at least at one point, where you have to all meet together with a bunch of 19-year-old kids that have never been out of the house? First of all, it was terrifying because I was facing the prospect of leaving my family for two years.

So that was really the initial emotion. But once I got into the MTC and I began to experience these relationships with these other young men who were going through the same process, I would say that a lot of them were very immature, just to be candid. I had experienced a semester at college. It's not a lot, but I had actually moved out of my parents' house. I deliberately got my own apartment, paid for it, worked, went to college to gain that experience of living away from home. I think a lot of these guys had never been away from home.

They had never experienced the quote-unquote real world. And so there was definitely a lot of immaturity. There were a lot of pranks.

There was just kind of a lot of goofing around. And there was a lot of homesickness was really the other thing to be a little more serious. I mean, these were young men that many of them had never walked away from their families for any extended period of time.

And after even several weeks in the MTC of this very rigorous and challenging schedule, many of them kind of buckled under that pressure. So I do encourage Christians, you know, when we see the Mormon missionaries, both the young men and the young women, to the enormous pressure that is on them. Sometimes homesickness and depression that they are going through throughout this process so that we see them through the lens of compassion rather than the lens of, you know, we want to combat with them, but instead to see them as objects of God's love that need truth. And you know, I think that problem that you just mentioned has been exacerbated when they lowered the age to 18. If you're seeing a level of immaturity, which is understandable, I mean, you know, 19 is very young and a lot of these kids, as I said, this is the first time they're out of the house on their own. And they're sharing their lives with other young guys that are out of the house and alone.

When you lower that another year, it only seems like it would become even more of a problem. And I remember one time, Eric and I were doing some research on this and we were reading about the cases of missionaries who have been sent home early because as you said, they were just homesick. They weren't used to this.

This is a big deal in their life. And when you figure, I've got 24 months of this ahead of me, I can imagine how some might have a bit of anxiety over that. You didn't feel that personally, though, did you?

Not really. I mean, I definitely had my moments where I struggled, you know, with homelessness. And I think about that because I feel like I was as prepared emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually as any missionary that's ever gone on a mission. And I know that there were times on my mission when I really did struggle. And so I am honestly amazed at the amount of missionaries that finish their missions, because it is a very difficult experience.

But you're right. I mean, I think the fact that they lowered the age to 18, it still is baffling to me. When you think of these kids that just graduated from high school, literally have no life experience, and they're sent to the corners of the earth to go represent their faith. I've personally observed that I think missionaries now are not very mature. Even to things like when I was a missionary, we would never miss an appointment, right?

We would never miss a phone call. We were so dedicated to following through with our commitment. And my experience with missionaries now is that they just do not follow through with commitment. We hear from people all the time that have an appointment for the missionaries to come and they just never show up, they never call, and they don't seem to really be bothered by that. So I think there is a lot of immaturity now. And of course, missionaries are not finishing their missions at the same rate now that they were, you know, 20 years ago.

And I think a lot of that is because of that immaturity. Based on what you experienced with these other young guys, I know a lot of people, they tend to get intimidated when they see those black badges that say Elder so-and-so. And they're probably thinking within the context of Christianity, because an elder in a Christian church is supposed to have some years behind them, some experience behind them, and it should be able to defend their faith adequately. Should people being confronted by Mormon missionaries feel intimidated? That's a great question, and I think there's kind of this misnomer that Mormon missionaries are these bulletproof, incredible, doctrine-knowing young men and women that have answers to everything. And so we kind of see them that way, and a lot of times Christians avoid any type of engagement with the Mormon missionaries because they don't feel equipped or have an adequate understanding of the Word of God to be able to defend their faith.

And I think that it really couldn't be further from the truth. I think most missionaries, they themselves are timid. They themselves are afraid, are uncertain. Many of them have not developed their own personal testimony and faith in the Mormon Church and the fundamental principles of the Church, and they're there because of cultural pressure, because of expectation of family or whatever. And so I think that most of them are not really prepared to be there, and there's nothing to be intimidated by about the Mormon missionaries. If anything, we should have compassion for them. We should almost feel sorrowful for them that they're in that position, and we should use that as an opportunity to lovingly proclaim truth to them. We were equipped to defend our faith, but it was a very surface-level understanding of Scripture, so it seemed like we knew the Bible very well, but we only knew the Scriptures and the Bible that seemingly defended our faith, but we didn't understand true doctrine and theology, and I think most missionaries are very ignorant to their own belief system. We're talking to Micah Wilder. He's the author of Passport to Heaven, the true story of a zealous Mormon missionary who discovers the Jesus he never knew, and in tomorrow's show we're going to talk more about his actual experience out in the mission field when he was serving in the state of Florida.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-04 10:30:03 / 2023-11-04 10:35:54 / 6

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