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Jerald and Sandra Tanner

Jerald and Sandra Tanner

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Jerald Dee Tanner was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 writer and researcher who, with his wife Sandra McGee Tanner (born January 14, 1941) spent nearly fifty years annotating and publishing archival and evidential materials which, the Tanners claim, accurately portrayed the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). The Tanners founded, and Sandra Tanner has continued to operate, the Utah Lighthouse Ministry, whose stated mission is "to document problems with the claims of Mormonism
Mormonism is the religion practiced by Mormons, and is the predominant religious tradition of the Latter Day Saint movement. This movement was founded by Joseph Smith, Jr. beginning in the 1820s as a form of Christian primitivism. During the 1830s and 1840s, Mormonism gradually distinguished itself...

 and compare LDS doctrines with Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

". Among the Tanners' reprints were often original versions of early Mormon writings and scripture in which they highlighted doctrinal changes, such as the rejection of Brigham Young
Brigham Young
Brigham Young was an American leader in the Latter Day Saint movement and a settler of the Western United States. He was the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1847 until his death in 1877, he founded Salt Lake City, and he served as the first governor of the Utah...

's "Adam–God theory". They jointly published over forty books dealing with many aspects of the Church, but primarily its history.

Biographical details

A native of Provo, Utah
Provo, Utah
Provo is the third largest city in the U.S. state of Utah, located about south of Salt Lake City along the Wasatch Front. Provo is the county seat of Utah County and lies between the cities of Orem to the north and Springville to the south...

, Jerald Tanner studied at the University of Utah
University of Utah
The University of Utah, also known as the U or the U of U, is a public, coeducational research university in Salt Lake City, Utah, United States. The university was established in 1850 as the University of Deseret by the General Assembly of the provisional State of Deseret, making it Utah's oldest...

 and received a degree from Salt Lake Trade Technical Institute. Before they met one another, Jerald and Sandra had, as teen-agers, each begun to examine the origins of Mormonism. Soon after their introduction, they jointly began researching the subject. As a result of these investigations, they (in their own words) "left the LDS church and became Christians"; the Tanners, among others, believe Mormons are not true Christians (see Mormonism and Christianity
Mormonism and Christianity
Mormonism and Christianity have a complex theological, historical, and sociological relationship. Mormons express the doctrines of Mormonism using standard biblical terminology, and have similar views about the nature of Jesus' atonement, bodily resurrection, and Second Coming as traditional...


Jerald and Sandra Tanner were married in Mission Hills, California
Mission Hills, California
Mission Hills is a census-designated place in Santa Barbara County, California, a short distance north of Lompoc on Highway 1. The population was 3,576 at the 2010 census, up from 3,142 at the 2000 census.-Geography:...

 on June 14, 1959. In addition to the fact that each had been raised in the LDS faith, both of their families had longstanding ties to the Mormon community. Sandra is a great-great-granddaughter of Brigham Young
Brigham Young
Brigham Young was an American leader in the Latter Day Saint movement and a settler of the Western United States. He was the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1847 until his death in 1877, he founded Salt Lake City, and he served as the first governor of the Utah...

, the second president of the LDS church. After 47 years of marriage, which produced two daughters and a son, Jerald Tanner died at the CareSource Hospice in Salt Lake City, at age 68, as a result of complications arising from Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's disease also known in medical literature as Alzheimer disease is the most common form of dementia. There is no cure for the disease, which worsens as it progresses, and eventually leads to death...


Sandra Tanner announced Jerald's death in an email which stated:

"Dear friends,
Jerald entered heaven's gates today (10/01/06) at 7:20 pm....
He went into a coma last night and didn't give any sign of knowing we were with him today.
A memorial service is being planned for Sat. but not sure where--mainly
because we aren't sure what size facility we need.
Pray for us as we grieve.
In Christian Friendship,
Sandra Tanner"

An "In Memoriam" tribute to Jerald Tanner was posted on the Tanners' website.

Joseph Smith Egyptian Papers

The Tanners have specialized in reproducing documents that would otherwise be inaccessible to the general public. For example, in 1966, they were the first to publish Joseph Smith's Egyptian
Egyptian language
Egyptian is the oldest known indigenous language of Egypt and a branch of the Afroasiatic language family. Written records of the Egyptian language have been dated from about 3400 BC, making it one of the oldest recorded languages known. Egyptian was spoken until the late 17th century AD in the...

 Alphabet and Grammar
, which today is usually called the "Joseph Smith Egyptian Papers". Prior to the publication, few LDS followers were aware of the existence of these documents, but their distribution by the Tanners, along with the Church's retrieval of the Joseph Smith Papyri a year later, has prompted discussions and debates that have extended over the following decades.

The Book of Abraham papyri were thought lost in the Great Chicago Fire
Great Chicago Fire
The Great Chicago Fire was a conflagration that burned from Sunday, October 8, to early Tuesday, October 10, 1871, killing hundreds and destroying about in Chicago, Illinois. Though the fire was one of the largest U.S...

. However, in 1966 ten fragments of the papyri were found in the archives of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a renowned art museum in New York City. Its permanent collection contains more than two million works, divided into nineteen curatorial departments. The main building, located on the eastern edge of Central Park along Manhattan's Museum Mile, is one of the...

 in New York. Subsequently, an additional fragment was located in the LDS Church Historian's Office. They are now referred to as the Joseph Smith Papyri. Both Mormon and non-Mormon Egyptologists
Egyptology is the study of ancient Egyptian history, language, literature, religion, and art from the 5th millennium BC until the end of its native religious practices in the AD 4th century. A practitioner of the discipline is an “Egyptologist”...

agree that the Book of Abraham is not a translation of these papyri, and that the papyri were not written by the hand of Abraham
Abraham , whose birth name was Abram, is the eponym of the Abrahamic religions, among which are Judaism, Christianity and Islam...

. Rather, the papyri are portions of Egyptian funerary texts, dating to about the first century BC. The text bears no resemblance to the translation given by Joseph Smith, although Mormon apologists have argued, without any evidence, there are several parallels. As a result, the interpretation of the texts has been the source of significant controversy with Mormon critics and apologists differing on the reasons for the discrepancy. The Tanners view the discrepancy as evidence that the Book of Abraham is solely a 19th century work by Joseph Smith with little if any reference to the descriptions and facts the LDS church makes available to the public.

Other documents and books

Other valuable photo mechanical reproductions include complete sets of early-LDS periodicals, including Messenger and Advocate
Messenger and Advocate
Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate was an early Latter Day Saint periodical published monthly in Kirtland, Ohio from October 1834 to September 1837...

, Times and Seasons
Times and Seasons
Times and Seasons was a 19th-century Latter Day Saint periodical published monthly or twice-monthly at Nauvoo, Illinois, from November 1839 to February 15, 1846...

, and the Millennial Star
Millennial Star
The Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star was the longest continuously published periodical of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, being printed from 1840 until 1970....

. Also notable is the reproduction of the 1825 edition of Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews, complete with the margin notes made by Elder B. H. Roberts in preparation for his posthumously published treatises A Book of Mormon Study (also known as Studies of the Book of Mormon
Studies of the Book of Mormon
Studies of the Book of Mormon, Brigham D. Madsen, ed. is a collection of previously unpublished manuscripts, written by LDS General Authority B.H...

) and A Parallel.

The Tanners have also compiled lists of changes to the text of the Book of Mormon and other texts used by the LDS church, arguing that the alterations are substantial and that the inconsistencies in the texts are evidence against LDS claims of their being divinely inspired. This is because of the Tanner's interpretation of Joseph Smith's claim the Book of Mormon was "the most correct book on the face of the earth...and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book."

The Tanners' best-known publication is Mormonism: Shadow or Reality?. Originally published in 1963 as Mormonism: A Study of Mormon History and Doctrine, and reprinted five times since, it has been described by Dean Helland of Oral Roberts University
Oral Roberts University
Oral Roberts University , based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the United States, is an interdenominational, Charismatic Christian, comprehensive university with an enrollment of about 3,790 students from 49 U.S. states along with a significant number of international students from 70 countries...

 as "the heavyweight of all books on Mormonism". In it, the Tanners question the character and integrity of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon
Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon is a sacred text of the Latter Day Saint movement that adherents believe contains writings of ancient prophets who lived on the American continent from approximately 2600 BC to AD 421. It was first published in March 1830 by Joseph Smith, Jr...

, and discuss the different accounts Joseph Smith gave of the First Vision
First Vision
The First Vision refers to a vision that Joseph Smith, Jr. said he received as a youth in a wooded area in Manchester, New York, which his followers call the Sacred Grove. Smith described it as a personal theophany in which he received a forgiveness of sins...

. It includes copies of original LDS documents.

Legal challenges

In 1999 the LDS Church sued the Tanners for Internet linking, from their website to a third party, the copyrighted Church Handbook of Instructions
Church Handbook of Instructions
The Handbook is a two-volume book of instructions and policies for leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints . The books are prepared by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the church...

, and received a favorable injunction from a judge. The lawsuit was settled out of court before an appeals court could rule on what observers described as a potentially landmark case concerning internet linking.

Between Temporary Orders, the Tanners posted on their site an e-mail from a reader that said: "Church Handbook of Instructions is back online!" The e-mail went on to list three Internet addresses at which copies of the entire Handbook or portions of it could be obtained.

Criticism of the Tanners

Lawrence Foster, a non-Mormon historian who has researched and written about the church, has stated that until the Tanners "are prepared to abide by accepted standards of scholarly behavior and common courtesy, they can expect little sympathy from serious historians". He has also accused them of assuming "a holier-than-thou stance, refusing to be fair in applying the same debate standard of absolute rectitude which they demand of Mormonism to their own actions, writings, and beliefs. ... The Tanners seem to be playing a skilful shell game
Shell game
The shell game is portrayed as a gambling game, but in reality, when a wager for money is made, it is a confidence trick used to perpetrate fraud...

 in which the premises for judgment are conveniently shifted so that the conclusion is always the same—negative."

Despite these criticisms, Foster also says that some of the Tanners' "research and analysis ... would do credit to any professional historian" and credits them for being "more than simply gadflies
Gadfly (social)
A gadfly is a person who upsets the status quo by posing upsetting or novel questions, or just being an irritant. The term has been used to describe many politicians and social commentators....

; in curious and often indirect ways, their work has also been a factor helping to stimulate serious Mormon historical writing."

Foster has also praised Jerald Tanner for his "fierce opposition to Mormon racism
Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination. In the modern English language, the term "racism" is used predominantly as a pejorative epithet. It is applied especially to the practice or advocacy of racial discrimination of a pernicious nature...

" and notes:

Some scholars have also, at least in private, been very pleased that the Tanners have made available hard-to-find printed works from early LDS history... even those scholars who are most critical of the Tanners and their methods have profited, at least indirectly, because the Tanners' allegations have spurred them to begin their own investigations into vital and still incompletely understood topics.... Jerald and Sandra Tanner have functioned with regard to Mormonism in much the same way that Ralph Nader
Ralph Nader
Ralph Nader is an American political activist, as well as an author, lecturer, and attorney. Areas of particular concern to Nader include consumer protection, humanitarianism, environmentalism, and democratic government....

 has functioned with regard to American business.... The Tanners have prodded the church to begin, however haltingly and imperfectly, to develop a more realistic sense of itself. I would imagine, for example, that much of the flowering of Mormon historical studies in the 1970s, which has helped to give at least some Mormons a richer and more vital knowledge of their own heritage, has been more than tangentially related to the desire of Latter-day Saint historians to prove the Tanners wrong by showing that a full and honest history of the Latter-day Saints can indeed be written. Much like the irritating grain of sand in the oyster, the result has been a pearl."

Michael Quinn
D. Michael Quinn
Dennis Michael Quinn is a historian who has focused on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was a professor at Brigham Young University from 1976 until his resignation in 1988. At the time, his work concerned church involvement with plural marriage after the 1890 Manifesto, in which...

, a historian and former member of the LDS Church, also takes issue with the Tanner's work. He noted that, "although the most conscientious and honest researcher can overlook pertinent sources of information, the repeated omissions of evidence by the Tanners suggest an intentional avoidance of sources that modify or refute their caustic interpretation of Mormon history."

Tanners challenge extreme anti-Mormonism

On occasion, the Tanners have publicly challenged irresponsible critics of Mormonism, earning praise even from some devoutly LDS scholars. Historian Daniel C. Peterson, chairman of the LDS apologetics group Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies
Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies
The Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies is an informal collaboration of academics devoted to Latter-day Saint historical scholarship. The group is formally part of the Neal A...

 at Brigham Young University, suggested the Tanners' willingness to debunk false documents regardless of their content was a sign of integrity
Integrity is a concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes. In ethics, integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one's actions...


"There are some anti-Mormons out there that I hold in contempt. They're demagogic. They spread hatred and strife and disharmony. I don't see the Tanners in that way."

The Tanners were among the first public critics of forger (and later, murderer) Mark Hofmann
Mark Hofmann
Mark William Hofmann is an American counterfeiter, forger and convicted murderer. Widely regarded as one of the most accomplished forgers in history, Hofmann is especially noted for his creation of documents related to the history of the Latter Day Saint movement...

. Though Hofmann's "discoveries" of important Mormon documents often appeared to bolster the Tanners' own arguments, Jerald Tanner had, by early 1984, concluded there was significant doubt as to the Salamander Letter
Salamander Letter
The Salamander Letter was a document created by Mark Hofmann in the early 1980s.The letter was one of hundreds of documents concerning the history of Latter Day Saint movement that surfaced in the early 1980s...

's authenticity, and "to the astonishment of a community of scholars, historians and students, published an attack on the so-called Salamander Letter." By late 1984, Jerald Tanner questioned the authenticity of most if not all of Hofmann's "discoveries" based in large part on their unproved provenance
Provenance, from the French provenir, "to come from", refers to the chronology of the ownership or location of an historical object. The term was originally mostly used for works of art, but is now used in similar senses in a wide range of fields, including science and computing...

. However, the Tanners concurred with Hofmann in contending that the LDS church's apparent inability to discern the forged documents is evidence against church leadership being divinely inspired
In religion and theology, revelation is the revealing or disclosing, through active or passive communication with a supernatural or a divine entity...


The Tanners have also debunked misrepresentations of the LDS Church by Christian evangelist Ed Decker
Ed Decker
Ed Decker , also known as John Edward Decker, is an American counterculture apologist and evangelist known for his studies, books, and public presentations of the perceived negative aspects of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Freemasonry...

's works, such as the film The God Makers.

Selected publications authored by the Tanners

  • Mormonism: Shadow or Reality?
    Mormonism: Shadow or Reality?
    Mormonism: Shadow or Reality? is a 1963 book by Jerald and Sandra Tanner that is highly critical of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints .-Description:...

    , a long, densely-written work full of reproductions of early Mormon documents accompanied by commentary. This has subsequently been revised and is the basis for their more readable later book, The Changing World of Mormonism. In the ex-Mormon
    Ex-Mormon refers to a disaffiliate of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or any of its schismatic breakoffs, collectively called "Mormonism". Ex-Mormons, sometimes referred to as Exmo, typically neither believe in nor affiliate with the LDS church. In contrast, Jack Mormons may believe...

     community, this is considered to be the most important book the Tanners have written.
  • The Case Against Mormonism, Vols. 1-3.
  • The Mormon Kingdom, Vols. 1-2, is considered an excellent treatise by many ex-Mormons for documenting Joseph Smith's and Brigham Young's dictatorial behavior.
  • Evolution of the Mormon Temple Ceremony: 1842-1990, includes the complete text of the 1990 changes to the temple ceremony
    Endowment (Mormonism)
    In Mormonism, the endowment is an ordinance designed to prepare participants to become kings, queens, priests, and priestesses in the afterlife. As part of the ceremony, participants take part in a scripted reenactment of the Biblical creation and fall of Adam and Eve...

     and examines many other changes made to the ceremony throughout the years. Because the temple ceremonies are considered sacred by Latter-day Saints and are not generally discussed with non-members, this book's treatment of the temple and the ceremonies inside is considered to be offensive by many faithful Latter-day Saints.

See also

  • Controversies regarding The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  • Criticism of Mormonism
  • Mormonism and Christianity
    Mormonism and Christianity
    Mormonism and Christianity have a complex theological, historical, and sociological relationship. Mormons express the doctrines of Mormonism using standard biblical terminology, and have similar views about the nature of Jesus' atonement, bodily resurrection, and Second Coming as traditional...

External links

  • From the Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR):

}, presentation at the 2000 FAIR conference.