Gunnison » Carl Wimmer felt on top of the world.
He was winning elections and making headlines as a conservative legislator at the center of many Utah political debates. He was the early front-runner for a newly created congressional seat. He was a four-time world powerlifting champ. He enjoyed being recognized on the street. He was happy in his Mormon faith.
Then it fell apart.
After resigning from the Legislature to run for Congress, he lost in spectacular fashion, failing to survive the GOP convention. After he announced that Nevada Republicans hired him as political director, the party said he was mistaken and dissidents had misled him. At the same time, his lifelong LDS faith was shaken as he discovered elements about its history and teachings that disturbed him.
Wimmer says the embarrassment and faith crisis were "as devastating as death," so he turned over his life to Christ.
That decision led him to tiny Gunnison, population 3,285, where he is a police school resource officer. He left Mormonism to become an evangelical Christian — many of whom don’t view Latter-day Saints as Christians — with eyes on joining the ministry.
"My political friends were shocked and surprised," says Wimmer, grinning widely at his dining room table. "But I’m spiritually alive like I have never been in my life."
He adds, "All of that pain, all of that heartache, was washed away as I came to the reality of who Jesus is in my life. It’s been replaced with a joy and a peace that surpass understanding."
Lifelong LDS » Wimmer says that unexpected spiritual journey to an unexpected place began about 10 years ago, although he didn’t recognize it at first.
To understand it, realize that Wimmer and his wife, Sherry, were lifelong Mormons. They grew up in the same LDS ward, or congregation, in West Valley City.
"I was your very run-of-the-mill, straitlaced LDS kid," Wimmer recalls. "I was baptized at 8, deacon [a beginning position in the faith’s all-male priesthood] at 12, teacher at 14, priest at 16 and elder. I didn’t serve a mission because I wanted to be a police officer all of my life, so I chose to go to the police academy instead. We were married in the Bountiful Temple in 1998."
He was an elders quorum president for years, even as his Mormon ward in Herriman split several times because of rapid growth. Meanwhile, Sherry served in presidencies of the local Relief Society (for LDS women), Primary (for children) and Young Women (for teenage girls).
"We were very happy for a long time," Wimmer says. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints "played such a large part in molding the type of people we are today that we are grateful for it."
But small events started his path away from Utah’s predominant religion.
"Just minor things, like a conversation you have with evangelicals that taught you something you didn’t know before. Or you could read a scripture that didn’t jibe with what you were taught and raised to believe," he says. "It slowly transformed to the point where it was hard to reconcile wanting to be a faithful follower of Jesus of the New Testament and some of the things we were doing in our church."
Helping the transition, Sherry Wimmer says, is the couple discovered Christian rock music, loved its messages and enjoyed going to concerts. Through politics, the Wimmers also became friends with many evangelicals.
Sherry became troubled that some New Testament teachings did not, in her view, match Mormon teachings.
For example, she says, the LDS Church teaches that to reach the highest level of exaltation in the celestial kingdom, or heaven, people must be married in Mormon temples and remain obedient. "Why am I dependent on Carl to be worthy for me to be exalted in the celestial kingdom? It’s through Christ alone that I am saved," she says. "That was the biggie for me."
Guided by God » Amid that, Wimmer says he still reached a time as a legislator and congressional candidate that he was "riding high and loving it, loving the adoration, loving people recognizing me."Next Page >
Copyright 2013 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.