Beyond Mormonism: An Elder's Story

by James R. Spencer

Chosen Books

Jim Spencer has received more than 10,000 letters from readers of his book Beyond Mormonism: An Elder’s Story. Many of those letters come from Latter-day Saints thanking him for writing “their story.”

Jim Spencer was a Mormon Elder for ten years. He was an honor student at Mormon college and served in virtually every auxiliary of the Church. He and his wife, Margaretta, were married in the Mormon temple in 1966. Jim taught Gospel doctrine Classes in the Church for five years.

After a number of years however, Jim began to be troubled by nagging questions:

       *Despite the lovely image of a typical Mormon family, why were divorce and suicide and child abuse so rampant, and why did no one really get close to one another?
       *What were the real reasons behind three different Mormon organizations, each claiming to be the One True church and each declaring the others to be apostate?
      *Why was his church-affiliated college so isolationist, to unable to converse honestly with students about relationships and problems?
      *Why did he continue to feel so troubled by the secret ceremony of the temple that was supposed to be the height of his spiritual experience as a Mormon?
      *Worst of all, if he had entered the inner circle of God's True Church, why did he begin to feel again a nagging sense of emptiness?

To leave the Church would mean social rejection by the community in which Spencer was not only a member but a leader. "My daughter's father is a Mormon Elder," his wife told him. "If you leave the Church, you leave your family."
      So when Spencer began finding some surprising answers beyond Mormonism, he had to ask himself: Was he willing to pay that high a price--and for what return?

Jim Spencer pastored an evangelical church in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and served as Eastern Idaho Divisional Superintendent for his denomination. He has a broad business and journalistic background. He and Margaretta, his wife of more than thirty years, have three daughters, six grandsons, and one granddaughter.