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Book Review: Passport to Heaven: The True Story of a Zealous Mormon Missionary who Discovers the Jesus He Never Knew

Boy meets girl . . . God meets boy

By Micah Wilder

Harvest House, 2021

Reviewed by Eric Johnson

A five-part Viewpoint on Mormonism podcast features Bill and Eric interviewing Micah Wilder aired June 14-18, 2021, available each day the show drops Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4   Part 5  

Most love stories featured in books and movies detail the events of when a boy/man meets a girl/woman before they fall in love. It’s a beautiful thing. A whole book of the Bible was even dedicated to such a story (Song of Solomon).

A new book by former Mormon missionary Micah Wilder offers an entirely different perspective. Passport to Heaven describes how God called on a young man who was in complete love with his church . Through a series of sovereign events, however, Jesus ends up becoming the focal point of Micah’s pursuit. The result? A page-turner of a book describing the events that united the boy with “the Jesus he never knew” (the subheading of the book).

While the paperback book contains more than 300 pages, I read it in a day. Descriptively written utilizing a variety of pictorial adjectives, the story allows the reader to take a front-row seat to observe the only-God-could-have-orchestrated-it tale.

I have known Micah for more than a decade and have heard him tell his story dozens of times. However, I will admit that what is laid out in this book were new to me. Even for those who thinks they know the story, reading this book is necessary to fully grasp its power.

For those who have never heard his testimony—whether on a YouTube video or at an Adam’s Road event held at hundreds of churches over the past decade plus—the story is glorifying to God. Micah Wilder grew up as a Latter-day Saint. His family converted to Mormonism when he was a young boy. When his mother Lynn (author of the 2013 best-selling book Unveiling Grace) received a job offer at LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah, the family of six made an across-country move to the land of “Zion.”

As a teenager, Micah blossomed into a zealous Mormon. Until 2013, male missionaries had to wait until they were 19 to join God’s army. So, after completing a semester at BYU, Micah decided to dedicate himself to full-time volunteer work at his local LDS temple during the winter while waiting to come of age. It turns out that he was considered the youngest full-time temple worker in church history at the age of 18.

His missionary career later began at the Missionary Training Center in Provo where he was learning Spanish and preparing for a foreign mission to Mexico. However, God had different plans, as Elder Wilder suffered a punctured lung in a basketball game. Church leaders decided it best to send him to Florida instead. A coincidence? Hardly.

In Florida, Micah was Saul-before-Paul as he completely dedicated himself during the early mission weeks. Two pastors he met helped set the stage for his eventual metamorphosis. The first was Matthew Shaw, a black Pentecostal preacher who came upon Micah in his church building while Micah was waiting for his missionary companion to finish using the church restroom. Pastor Shaw made an impressionable imprint on the elder.

Next in line was Pastor Alan Benson. Micah hatched a plot where he and his companion missionary would convert this seemingly naïve pastor and then bring his entire congregation into the fold of the LDS Church. It was a brilliant plan, or so he thought.

After presenting Mormonism’s “plan of salvation” one day while the pastor listened, Elder Wilder proverbially patted himself on his own back. Success appeared to be at hand. However, Pastor Benson remained unmoved and, at the end of their time together, he uttered words that soon became a mantra to Micah: “Read the Bible like a little child.”

Undeterred, the missionary decided to take Benson up on his challenge. Over the next two years, Micah read the New Testament a dozen times and realized that the  doctrines he was taught as a Latter-day Saint differed from the teachings of the Bible. Grace and love overtook Micah as he eventually came to a biblical faith while still on his mission.

Great detail is given to the interactions Micah had with his mission president, President Sorensen (not his real name). In fact, Micah uses a back-and-forth technique throughout the first half of the book to weave the final days of his mission with the rest of the story. There is much redemption that takes place, including the fact that Micah held his ground when pressured by the LDS leaders and still having compassion for those who desired to do away with Micah and end his newfound testimony.

Besides having his mission destination move to Florida, there were a number of “God moments” and divine “coincidences” that could have only been orchestrated by God. Here are just two additional events:

  • Meeting a man named Erik who owned a bed-and-breakfast hotel in Winter Haven, Florida. Among other things, Erik—who had been a Mormon at one time but who grew disillusioned—and Micah got to know each other in a special way.  Erik ended up becoming the emotional and spiritual stability that Micah needed to help him take a stand for his newfound biblical faith. Erik had previously written a letter to a “David” that he had put away in a drawer. He gives it to Micah, who vows not to open it until his mission is complete. When the letter is finally opened, it produces a powerful aha moment–watch for it. Unbeknownst to Erik, Micah had fallen in love with the Old Testament David and had patterned his adolescent life after the biblical king. Providentially, Jesus was born through David’s genealogical line, so Micah’s identity with David is one of those chalk-it-up to providence.
  • A childhood friend named Schuler died at an early age, but it became apparent to Micah that his friend ended up having a simple relationship with God despite his troubles with substance abuse. The realization that his friend was in heaven despite struggling with sin helped Micah deal with his own hypocrisy. This event seems to be a pivotal moment in Micah’s faith journey.

There was much for Micah to overcome, but by the end of the story, he realized that the Christianity he came to mock was actually true, including the idea of biblical grace. Even when he was betrayed by friends and constantly confronted by church superiors to get him to change his mindset, Micah stood firm in his resolve to follow the true Jesus of the Bible.

A powerful passage is found on page 309 as Micah was confronted by his Utah stake president, President Hansen. Micah writes,

“Growing up, I was taught by the Church that Christians believed in a cheap grace. I thought that these self-proclaimed ‘born-againers’ would throw their hands in the air, declare ‘I’m saved,’ and then live for sin, indulging in every desire of the flesh without believing that works had any part in the Christian life. Now that I myself had become born again and received the life-changing love of God, my perspective had changed radically. I now realized how much more transmutes the heart: When I came to know and understand the immeasurable love that God had for me and finally fathom the grace—the unmerited favor—He had shown to me. I didn’t see that as a license for me to sin as I pleased. In fact, it had the opposite effect.”

Today Micah is married to his high school sweetheart Alicia, who was converted to Christ from Mormonism while remaining in Utah during Micah’s mission. This was only possible because Micah faithfully shared  with her weekly the things that he was learning. Just two days after he was flown home to Utah a week before he would have been honorably discharged as a Mormon missionary, Micah went back to Florida. Not long after that, Micah and Alicia eloped to Disneyworld. Today the Wilders help run Erik’s antique hotel in Florida called the Edgewater along with Joseph Warren (who married Micah’s sister Katie) and Micah’s older brother Matt (who married Nicole). All converted from Mormonism to biblical Christianity. Micah, Joseph, and Matt along with fourth member Lila LeBaron travel the country each year as representatives of the “Adam’s Road” ministry, singing original songs while giving their testimonies at a variety of churches.

The book Passport to Heaven is already a best seller (it sold out on on the first day despite six months of heavy promotion to presell the book) and will remain popular for years to come. In fact, a movie is supposed to be produced that will take the story to the big screen. The story really is that engaging and is highly recommended. There will be a number of fingernail-biting moments along with lots of uncertainty, but in the end it is obvious who is Hero of this story is. And that’s the way Micah wants it to be.

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