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Finding Christianity w/ Sandra Tanner

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The Truth Network Radio
November 1, 2022 12:00 am

Finding Christianity w/ Sandra Tanner

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November 1, 2022 12:00 am

In this episode, we welcome Sandra Tanner to the podcast. She joined us earlier this year to discuss her transition from Mormonism to Christianity. Many who go through an LDS faith crisis end up jettisoning Christianity and religion altogether. We asked Sandra to talk about why she kept Christianity after deconstructing Mormonism. 

It was a pleasure to have Sandra on Outer Brightness, and to have had the opportunity to meet her in person at the Utah Lighthouse Ministry Bookstore in Salt Lake City in September.


How to practice, from Mormon to Jesus. In some of you, the only thing you've ever seen of Christianity is a dead religion. But I serve a living God who has sent us a living Savior.

I'm not going to stay here, says one. I don't believe this is the ship Zion. Off goes the coat, and he jumps overboard. Will he not be drowned?

Yes. So will those who leave this church. For that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, you must be born again. If you choose to become inactive or to leave the restored church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where will you go?

What will you do? Trust in Christ. He is such a Savior. He's mighty to save.

Don't let anything stand between you and coming to know Him. Did I born myself again? No. He made me alive together with Christ. Listen, I can no more manufacture the second birth than I manufactured the first one.

All right. Welcome back, Fireflies to Outer Brightness, from Mormon to Jesus. We have with us tonight a very important guest, Sandra Tanner.

Her name should be familiar to just about all of our listeners. If you're someone who has began questioning the LDS faith or attempts to defend the LDS faith, you very quickly become familiar with the Tanners, Gerald and Sandra. And Sandra and her husband Gerald left the LDS church in the 1960s, I believe. And from then on kind of had a ministry in Salt Lake City, Utah Lighthouse Ministry.

It's a bookstore that they first ran out of their home and then expanded into a separate building where it is today. And over the years, they've been able to reach many, many Latter-day Saints with information about the LDS faith, information about Christianity. And as I said, if you're anybody around Mormon studies or ministry to Mormons or LDS apologetics, you very quickly become familiar with Sandra Tanner. So Sandra, welcome to Outer Brightness and thank you for coming on.

OK, good. So you've been on a lot of different podcasts that I've listened to. You have, you know, you've been on Mormon stories several times to do shows with John Belinn. You recently were on with Steven Pinnaker. And I heard you were on another one. Was it with Eric Johnson? I didn't get to listen to that one yet. Yes, I've been there.

I've been with Rick Bennett on gospel tangents. Yeah. Yes. Yeah. So there's quite a few.

Yeah. There is a lot of places where you can go to hear Sandra talk about all of the studies that she and Gerald did, the impacts that they've had on LDS evangelism from a Christian perspective and and really just her story. You can hear that on Mormon stories. I think it would be interesting to have Sandra on to talk about something that doesn't get covered a lot because of her expertise in Mormonism. But we wanted to have her on to talk a little bit about why she's still why she's a Christian after deconstructing Mormonism. And we thought that would be an interesting topic.

So we'll kind of get into that and lead up to that with some questions. First, I wanted to ask, I mentioned you were recently almost Stephen Pinnaker on his YouTube channel, Mormon Book Reviews. And you talked about the time that you spent attending Pauline Hancock's church of Christ after you kind of left the Salt Lake City based LDS church.

Can you tell us about how that came about that you started attending Pauline's church? You were raised, I guess, somewhat active in the in the Salt Lake City based church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. How did your own questions and doubts about that brand of Mormonism begin and kind of what drew you to that different sect of Mormonism? Well, when I met Gerald, he was on his own journey out of Mormonism. And as a 18, 19 year old, he had got questions about Mormonism and had driven out to Independence, Missouri from Salt Lake to visit the splinter groups because he had decided Utah Mormonism didn't look like it held up.

So he wanted to visit the splinter groups to see if any of them had a better answer to the problems. And also he had heard that the Book of Commandments, Joseph's first printing of his revelations, read differently in some parts than the current doctrine and covenants. So he went back and visited the Church of Christ temple group who showed him a book of commandments and verified to him that the doctrine and covenants had been changed. Well, then he also visited another little group called Church of Christ Bible Book of Mormon. And this was one where Pauline Hancock, a former reorganized lady, had left from the reorganized church. Some of the people in the church had come out of the Church of Christ temple group, a lot of different Church of Christ stuff in Mormon splinter groups. Anyways, he visited Pauline's church and that was the first time he'd ever heard about anyone presenting the gospel. He was taken by the sincerity of the people there.

He was taken by their commitment to Christ. There was no show or pretense. It was a very humble group.

They didn't try to dress up real fancy to outdo each other. Everyone was just, as you met them, there was no errors that were putting on of anything. So he started studying with them. He was just visiting, remember.

He lives in Salt Lake. So he's visiting an independence, staying with people in this church. And through talking with them, two different trips out, through talking with them, he had come to accept Christ. However, he was still, the little group was still believing the Book of Mormon. They had given up all the rest of Mormonism. No doctrine of covenants, no prolegary prize, no temple work, no work for the dead, all those things went because they took the Book of Mormon doctrine seriously. And when you really study the Book of Mormon, you find it doesn't teach you to Mormonism.

Joseph Smith moved on from his beginning teachings and started changing all of that. So that's how Gerald came in contact with the Church of Christ. So he comes back home and starts having these little cottage meetings in his house, his mom's and dad's house. And my grandma, which is another story about how my grandma ended up with an invite to these little meetings.

And I was visiting in Salt Lake, and she asked me to take her there. So when we got over there, here's Gerald, who's this real cute guy, holding these meetings. So that's how I got involved in that church was because of Gerald. And Gerald, in these meetings, would play a little teaching tape from the group, and he would talk about the problem areas of Mormonism why you needed to jettison all that, and just go with Bible and Book of Mormon.

So, Gerald's, I don't know what percent you'd say three fourths of the way out of Mormonism, still hanging on to that Book of Mormon. We studied together, night after night, and I stayed in Salt Lake and had dropped out of college to meet with this cute guy. And then we got married that June, this in 59. But we knew we didn't want a Mormon bishop to Marius and we knew we didn't want to get married in the temple. And we didn't know who to have Marius and my mother who had been doubting and had been visiting at a liberal Christian church told me that she knew a minister. So we asked Reverend Kepler to Marius. I found out later after we got married that he didn't even believe the resurrection so so much for having a Christian pastor Marius, but because I have a little problem today with thinking that if you don't believe the resurrection that that you get the name Christian. Oh, that guy's knocking at my door. Hey, can you just pause this a minute. So you were telling us about Gerald and being married by Protestant minister he didn't believe in the resurrection.

Right. Well, we lived down in California for the first year of our marriage, and we visited around at different churches, but it was very hard for me to figure out what it was all about. Now Gerald and I talked a lot about scriptures, and of course he's showing me what the Book of Mormon says and then he's showing me the same stuffs in the Bible that there's only one God. There's heaven or hell. There's no work for the dead and you can't get take care of things later on the Book of Mormon says once you die you're sealed.

That's it wherever you're going. There's no work for the dead stuff so no temple stuff so that helped me in sorting through doctrine to that degree that you could do using the Book of Mormon. So, it was a journey and I would like to encourage people that if they have a friend coming out of Mormonism you have to realize that you don't see all the error that you were trained in right off the bat, you can accept the Lord and still have a lot of old stuff packed in there. In fact, I've had people come in the bookstore and talk to me, and we'll get talking along and I'll say something that will jar something into mind this one time this lady looks at me and she says, Wait a minute. You mean you don't believe in pre-existence? And I said, No. And she says, I thought everyone believed in that.

No. The Christian world doesn't believe in a pre-existence. And yet she was a new Christian going to some Christian church here, but evidently that topic had just never come up to where there ever had been a corrective for her on. And that's one of the things of Mormonism that you're going to have to set aside.

It's not in the Bible. So I find this quite often that there's little bits of Mormonism still stuck different places and Christians have to be patient in talking with their friends. If you were working among animus and they became Christian, there would be stuff in there thinking that would not jive with the Bible.

And until the subject comes up, they don't know that it's a problem. So it was a learning process. We believed the Book of Mormon for three years after we left Mormonism and became Christians. I became a Christian through a Christian radio station. I mean, I was visiting different churches, but I couldn't quite get the grasp of what they were talking about. Grace is kind of confusing for Mormons. And so this minister was preaching on 1 John chapter four. I don't remember the verse now. Hearing this love, not that we love God, but that he loved us and gave his son as a propitiation for our sins.

And that was the part of the chapter he was dealing with. We love him because he first loved us. And in Mormonism, where you're a child of God, real time, that you're a spirit child born to him and his wife in a pre-earth life, you expect God to love you because you're his child.

You're God material. So as this man's preaching on hearing his love, not to wait on God, but that he loved us. And that was such an amazing thought to me.

I just sat there and pondered upon you that. And the more I did, I realized that all these preachers I'd heard, they were all talking about seeing ourselves as sinners separated from God. Not that we just needed a little course correction in our life, not that we just needed to go to more meetings or whatever, but there was a basic problem. And that's when I found Christ, he found me, whatever way you want worded, when I accepted the Lord. So we visited different churches, didn't find a church home in California, we just visited. And then we moved to Salt Lake in order to do more research. And then we finally settled into a church home here in Salt Lake, and we gave up the Book of Mormon in, what would it have been, fall of 62. So we got married in 59 till the fall of 62, we believed the Book of Mormon.

And then January of 63, by that time we had two kids. And I said to Gerald, I think we need to find a church to raise our kids and living here in Salt Lake. They need a church where they're going to get good teaching where they'll have friends, because they're not going to fit in with our families. So we got to find them a group to hang with. So anyways, we ended up at the Christian Missionary Alliance Church here in Salt Lake, and have been there ever since. And God's been very good to us through the years.

We've gone through so many things, but the Lord's always been there. Well, and that, okay, now back to your questions. What's next? No, that's great, Sandra, we appreciate that. Your story kind of reminds me a little bit of Grant Palmer's, when he when he kind of was starting to deconstruct his, you know, some some of his beliefs about the LDS faith, he kind of went to a more common denominator kind of Mormonism, you know, like boil it down, get rid of the extra stuff, you know, like you said, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price and kind of just focus on Jesus. That seemed kind of like what he kind of the direction he went towards the end of his life.

So yeah, it's in talking to you specifically about this deconstruction process. So, you know, like you first, you kind of went more towards just the Book of Mormon, you know, and then took several years before you kind of left the Book of Mormon. So during this process of your deconstructing your faith or reexamining your faith, however you would prefer to call it, what why do you think that you and Gerald didn't just, you know, completely jettison all of it all together? Why did you not just become atheists and you still clung to Christ? Well, we both before we knew each other had had experiences with God intervening and touching our lives and answering certain prayers. So I don't think we ever even considered at that point that there wasn't a God. It was just figuring out who he was. So I guess the non-believers would say we just weren't critical enough.

I don't know. But we felt that God had touches and I still believe God touches us. And I know my own believing friends want to talk it all up to emotion or lack of study or whatever. But I mean, I feel that God answered a couple of specific prayers when I was a teen that had nothing to do with Mormonism.

They were personal issues that I just knew there was a God out there. Yeah, that actually rings true with me as well. Oh, can you hear me? Can you hear me now?

OK, sorry about that. Yeah, that rings true with me as well. I when I was deconstructing my faith as Latter-day Saint, I considered just, you know, becoming atheist. But I had also experiences where I felt like God had really just made his presence or his, you know, his existence known, his love known to me.

There are special times during my mission where like I was there was a time when I was being robbed or someone was trying to rob us. And I felt like God had led someone that we'd met on the street. He wasn't LDS. He wasn't really, you know, we just talked to him, but he just happened to be there.

And he helped us out at that same moment. And I thought, man, that can just be a coincidence, you know. So it felt like there was just too many coincidences to just say, you know, there's no God whatsoever. And so that's what you said kind of resonated with me a lot.

Yeah. Well, and just in the big picture of things, it just made sense to me there had to be a creator. I mean, I couldn't look out over the universe and think it just happened.

To me, it showed design. And I know some of my atheist friends think the whole design argument's wrong. But to me, there is design and there's order in the universe.

It isn't just a crapshoot. There's a reason we have gravity, you know. So I think those things came about in ways that show a mind behind it all.

Yeah, for sure. I really appreciated what you said about Christians being patient with Latter-day Saints as they make the transition out and into Christianity. There are, as you mentioned, there are pieces of Mormonism that will remain. I've had conversations with my dad who has also kind of made his way out and is attending a Christian church there in Salt Lake City. And, you know, conversations that we have, there are times when he would kind of ask me, is this Mormonism or is this Bible? You know, when we'd be talking about a certain passage, you know, because you hear things as a Latter-day Saint and you imbibe the teachings and they kind of get into you deep and it takes some time to unravel everything.

I appreciate what you said about that. And I also love that your kind of conversion or born-again experience involved 1 John 4 because I had an experience with that passage as well on my mission that I've talked about on the podcast, where we were going to meet with the Latter-day Saint couple there in Hungary. He was serving as the elders quorum president in the branch and we were going to meet with them for dinner and a message. And I prepared a message on 1 John 4 and kind of talked through those passages, you know, the one that you mentioned in particular, you know, that we love God because he first loved us. And I remember Shandor was his name when we read through that.

He said, I've never heard it put that way before. You know, and he was a convert to Mormonism, but that message is so shocking and it's so kind of contradictory to the way Mormonism views grace and how we how we gain salvation. And so that message of, you know, we love him because he first loved us is so powerful.

So I love that that was part of your story. And I did also recently rewatch your interview on Mormon stories and you you mentioned that you and Gerald had felt out of place. And you mentioned that tonight, too, that because you you still believed in the Book of Mormon as you were making that transition into Christian churches. We're going to do an episode pretty soon on an LDS Church news article by Tad R. Collister. He's the former Sunday School General President of the LDS Church. And he wrote an article with a title that that suggests that the LDS Church ruins its members for other Christian churches. And he goes through and argues, you know, several points of Mormon doctrine that he suggests make it difficult for Latter Day Saints to go into other Christian churches. So why don't you talk a little bit more about what made it a difficult transition, but also what were some of the discoveries that you made as you transitioned into Christianity? And what were the surprises that kind of kept you engaged as you and Gerald were making that transition regarding Christianity or our study of Mormonism? Christianity.

Wow, let's see. We had already resolved that there was no priesthood. So I think that a lot of other people coming out of Mormonism struggle with the concept of priesthood. That wasn't an issue for us because that wasn't an important thing in the Book of Mormon. And we saw in Hebrews, you know, the Jesus is our only high priest and those different things.

So we'd studied enough to know some of those things. So priesthood did not become an issue for us. Because of the Book of Mormon, the Mormon view of God had already gone by the wayside. So that wasn't a problem when we went into other churches. Culturally, I was a little shocked in this thing, Southern California, of women coming to church in sundresses because that was just, whoa, you know, sacrilege to have your shoulders uncovered there.

And and they serve coffee in the foyer. And although I didn't feel I didn't feel that the word of wisdom was binding on me or anything, I just thought that it was that it made sense. I mean, I still accepted the emotional response to the word of wisdom, but I hadn't really thought about it yet. But it just shocked me when there was coffee in the foyer.

And this is clear back in 1960, you know, I'd probably really been shocked today. But so the cultural things like that passing an offering plate was a problem for me. Nowadays, after COVID, our church has now gone to just boxes at the back of the church. If you want to put an offering in, we don't pass the plate anymore, which is okay with me because I think that that has been a problem for many seekers in the past when a plate is passed. And well, when we first started going to church as clear back in 1960, they would take the offering plate up to the front of the church and lay the plates on a little bench table thing in front of the pulpit, like they were presenting it to God. And I'm sure in their minds, they thought of it in terms of an offering to God and putting it on the altar for him or whatever. But from an outsider's point of view, from a Mormon's point of view, it looked like they were giving the money to the pastor. And so that was a bit of a problem because I didn't know enough yet to appreciate the concept of faithfully giving money to a local church to help them continue in the work they have there to do. I mean, nobody operates for free. Well, very few.

I mean, somebody has to pay the light bill. So, but I'm glad now to see some of the churches transitioning to, well, online giving has helped a lot with that, but that they don't pass an offering plate as much because for a Mormon that it is a bit of a trigger. Because, and this is, I don't know what Ted Callister talked about, but this is one of the things that Mormonism has spoiled you on is the idea that pastors are in it for the money, and to perceive that offering as being given to him.

So those are things that you have to work through and come to a better understanding on. And even we didn't have the shock of today's modern music. I think that would have been a real hard trip for me back then. And for many Mormons, it kind of surprises that when they see drums on the stage, that, you know, just, they might get their head around a guitar but you know drums are just a little bit too much like secular music. So as Mormons, we were used to very slow hymns and no enthusiasm in it. I would say that the Christian churches generally were friendly, although sometimes as a Mormon, you kind of stand out I don't know I guess we look lost or whatever but when, when you're coming out of something like Mormonism. And there were some times when I felt that people didn't say hi to us, because we were new people, and that they probably thought we were Mormons or something. So people could have been more welcoming to new people in, and I don't know that may have changed a lot these days I hope so I, I think our church is a lot more friendly than it was back 40 years ago.

So maybe it's a learning curve for all of us. Yeah, they, you know, they refer to Calvinists as the frozen chosen you know we're, we could definitely do some work and welcoming new people for sure but yeah, I loved a lot of what you said. I was going to ask you a question but I think you already answered it. Did the change of you know not having salvation after death you know the possibility that deceased loved ones who accepted Christ did that bother you at all when you were transitioning. Well, yes. But since the Book of Mormon and the Bible both said there was nothing that you could do about your state. After death. I felt that okay if I'm going to say I'm a Christian that's part of the outline of the belief system. So, but it is a troubling doctrine and I don't want to seem casual about it. People come in and talk to me, and they start crying you know well does this mean my grandfather went to hell, or my dad did my dad go to hell, and I have to tell them that's between him and God because I don't know their heart. And so, I can affect how my end is going to be, but we have no ultimate power to keep our loved ones from whatever decision they made. So, it is a horrifying thought to think of the people that will be separated from God there's no doubt about it. But there's a loving God that invited them and we have to leave the rest of him. Amen.

Thank you. Yeah, it's, it's, it's hard to understand sometimes I struggle to think about it you know especially with so many of my family members now that aren't Christians, but we really have to go with what God has spoken what he's revealed in his word, even if it's difficult to accept. He talked with a lot of Latter-day Saints that just abhor that idea, you know, that there's no salvation after death and we know I have to be honest to and admit, you know, I struggle with it too but you know we just have to trust God and he'll he'll take, you know, whatever he does is right.

Right. Yeah, thank you for that, Sandra. So, after you and Gerald married and you kind of began your ministry in Salt Lake City. How did you start to go about doing research about Mormonism what, what kind of drove the two of you in that direction of doing ministry and what methods did you use to do your research early on. Well, to begin with, we didn't think of it as a ministry and we didn't set up as one. By the way, I think that anyone going into ministry coming out of Mormonism needs a period of time to mature in their faith. I think we do new Christians a disservice if we push them forward too quickly into the public eye, because they, they have not studied it enough yet. And there may be lingering bits of Mormonism in there.

And just understanding the gospel I mean we all can talk about Christ to anybody but I think people that really go into ministry need a transitioning period, to be sure of what they know and believe, but we didn't think of it as ministry. We thought of it in terms of, we're trying to figure out the truth, who is God, what are his scriptures, and what's my part in serving God, but we started out trying to figure out the history of Mormonism we started our journey, struggling with elements of Mormonism that didn't check out that had been changed. And when we tried to tell our family and friends about this, they would say we were lying we were just dumb kids and we didn't know if and who knows that those books you're reading even have the truth in them and you know you get all this kind of pushback. So, ours started from a research of trying to determine if Mormonism was true, then trying to explain to our family and friends, why we were leaving Mormonism because it wasn't true. And we got so much pushback on that we said well, I've got it isn't just one reference I can give you five references on that problem, you know, like polygamy or anyone at Brigham Young's doctrines, or do the changes in the book of Mark changes in the D&C that really affect meaning, and those kind of things that because everyone said well you just read that in some anti Mormon book.

So we were determined to have photocopies of the problem areas to show our family and friends. And so that really got us in deeper into researching on Mormonism, and we didn't think of it as a ministry as such as a Christian would say ministry. We viewed it as a service to God and that we're trying to help people come to faith in Christ and faith in truth, and see that Mormonism is a lie. And the more we got into study the more we realized how deep the misinformation had been for Mormonism what it had told its members. So we kept writing and studying all the Mormon aspects so that people would see that it isn't what it claims to be with the hope that with that breaking that down for people they would be open to go on with Christianity. So we were a business for years, we set up modern microfilm in around 1964 period, and operated as a business that produced all kind of research material on Mormonism. And that wasn't till 1983 that we set up as a nonprofit organization, but even through the 20 years that we were just a microphone business where we had a bookstore with all kind of material on Mormonism and some on Christianity. And then finally build up to have a bookstore at first we just had a little of our front room was set up like a little bookstore, and then finally we were able to get the property next door and set up with a regular facility for the ministry. It was a process, but what drove us was realizing how misinformed the Mormon people were they were trusting their salvation on something that was built on sand, and they didn't realize it. It's like having your family, sitting in the front room all laughing and joking and you know the back side of the house is on fire, you're trying to get them out of the house and they can't see there's any problem in the front room. You know that way about the Mormons and Christianity you're sitting in the front room and you don't realize the buildings on fire, but they wouldn't look at the evidence.

And so, we just kept at it. Over the years, we've seen dozens, hundreds, thousands I don't know how many people come out of Mormonism and many of them had come to faith in Christ, not all of them, but many of them have. And I now have people coming back to see me in the store that will either write me or stop in and say 20 years ago 30 years ago whatever it was. I bad mouthed you and maybe I called you up and told you off or sent you a nasty email just want you know I'm sorry for all that I'm not Christian, you know, and that's just really exciting when you have those kind of exchanges, but it was a long time coming it just, it didn't happen overnight. We didn't immediately see people leaving Mormonism to become Christians. In time, we saw many of our family and many of our friends come to faith in Christ, but it's, it was a journey it didn't happen overnight so I think people that are more of a family.

I hope you continue to share Christ with them, even when it seems like it's just water running off a dot ducks back in time, things start to run around in their mind and they start to process what you said and then someday they may come back to you and say now what was that you were saying about Jesus, and you get a further chance to talk with them. I mean my mom didn't accept Christ till the last week of her life, and praise God she did, but there were a lot of years there that she left Mormonism and went into atheism, mad at God, hated the scriptures, and to see God touch her at the end was just so exciting to finally see mom come to faith in Christ. Yeah, I had a similar experience with my mom just before she passed and I've shared that on an earlier episode of our podcast as well.

I'm going to share a little bit with you about my mom. So, she did a lot of genealogical research, she went to BYU as a young woman and got a degree in library sciences and she would do genealogy at the church genealogical library for clients, helping them to trace out their family history. Ultimately so they, you know, could take them to take the names to the LDS temples and perform ordinances on behalf of those who had died but so that was what she did as her career and we used to, when I was younger we would drive past what was then the stadium we saw like trappers played, there was, I don't know if it's still there but there and I think it was seized candies, there was a place where they made them nearby there somewhere, just past I think it's 13 South somewhere around that area, and we used to go there and she would, you could buy those candies that had not passed quality check at a discount. And so we mom would, if we'd be coming home from the genealogical genealogical library drive by there, and we would pass your ministry and she would see the sign, and she would, she would say those damn tanners. And I, you know, I never really understood it I would ask her like, what are you talking about who are they you know and oh they're anti Mormons you know, she would say, and that's that's all I really knew about you until I was a young adult living here in Cincinnati area, and really started questioning myself and started to go online to fair LDS fair Mormon at the time, and, you know, encountered a lot of articles trying to debunk things that you and Gerald had researched out.

And those articles on fair actually created more questions in my mind than they helped to solve. So then I started going directly to your website and finding more information. So yeah, you know, I really resonate with what you said about you know just keep sharing the gospel with people.

My mom near the end of her life, was in a nursing home and I would go and read the Bible with her and my brother when he was in town would read the Bible or even read it with her over the phone. And you just have to keep at it. I appreciate what you said about that.

Right. Yeah, I was gonna say to, I really liked the in the various interviews I've seen with you, where they've asked you questions about, you know, all the work you've done with Mormonism, how you and Gerald just had a very high, you just had a desire and a, and a thirst for the truth. And with with the idea that the truth will win out and to not use sources or use tactics that are, you know, untrustworthy or that try that might be useful in trying to attack the church.

But in the end, they're not completely honest or truthful. So I've always, I've always admired that about you and Gerald, that you were, you're always you were kind of like secret spies, you're trying to like, you know, get into the church archives and get, you know, photocopies of like really old documents, you know, and hearing those stories is great. Also, with the whole figure for our listeners who don't know, there's a documentary that was released recently that we talked about on one of our programs, Murder Among the Mormons. And you were interviewed for that. And the fact that you were very critical of the Mark Hoffman, which turned out to be forgeries, you are very critical and not just embracing, hey, let's let's throw this out there, you know, the salamander letter has to be legitimate, you know, let's just use that against the church, you really wanted to study it and say and Gerald had doubts about it. And he said, hey, let's look at this, you know, it's not very trustworthy. So I really admired that about you and Gerald.

And you know, God is one of the quirks of life, I guess, how God can use the strangest things for his glory. Gerald's just trying to be factual on the documents. And because he stood up publicly and said, I don't trust these documents, I don't think they're authentic. And then he didn't just say it, he wrote up a little pamphlet where he showed how it was plagiarized from old documents to get the wording in it. And but no one paid attention because it was that evil Gerald Tanner, this doesn't apostate.

And how could he ever tell the truth, you know, so a year later, is when the murders happened. And that's when the Mormons started critically looking at them and realized, oh my goodness, yeah, I don't think they are authentic. And the final way of proving that was through the Mormon forensic scientists that realized there were ways to test the ink that showed they were artificially aged.

And that was something you could take into court to prove, whereas our analysis of the borrowed words would not have done enough to persuade people that it wasn't authentic. But because Gerald was the only one that stood up publicly in print and question Mark's document, we got written up in all the paperbacks that got written on Mark Hoffman. And because of that, it had this funny effect that all these critical Mormons out there suddenly said, I say to themselves, wait a minute, you mean that Tanner's told the truth about something. And because of those books, we had a flood of Mormons coming to us for the next several years coming out of Mormonism because I realized the church was deceptive and how it dealt with this history. And it wasn't just that they didn't just didn't concede that the documents were forgeries. They hid up evidence on the relating to the case that came out in some of the books. And so that was disillusioning to a lot of Mormons.

You know, how how could Gerald Tanner be right and the prophets wrong? I mean, we got a picture of the Deseret News, the prophet, his counselors and a couple of apostles all looking at Mark's documents. Proud as punch on the front page of the newspaper like these are all authentic documents. And here's Gerald waving the flag in the background.

Hey, guys, those aren't authentic. So it in a backwards sort of way ended up putting us on the map in a sense that people finally said, well, maybe the tanners don't lie about everything. Maybe I could go down and talk to them. It turned out to be a great open door for us. Yeah, that's great. You were finally vindicated after all that research and all that work. And then they said, hey, they weren't just lying. Yeah, that that whole thing with the Hoffman forgeries was really impactful for me.

It's one of the topics that I encountered on Fair LDS as I was doing some research around 2002 or so. And, you know, that's years after, you know, you and Gerald had kind of been on the forefront of that topic. But it was a topic that I heard my mom talk about because, you know, some one of the bombings where he actually nearly blew himself up happened right by the the old desert gym, which is near the genealogical library. And so when we would go down there where we would park, she looked up to the hill to where that happened.

And so she would sometimes talk about it when we went downtown. And so later when I was researching it and reading about, you know, that whole that whole idea, how that you mentioned, how could the tanners be right about something that the prophets were wrong about? You know, the way the way that Fair tried to address that thorny question was to attack your character.

You know, oh, well, they run it as a business, which was I was glad to hear you openly say, yeah, we ran it as a business for years before we started as a started as a nonprofit, because, you know, that was all they had on that was to try to. Go after your character. And I thought, well, that doesn't change the fact that they were right about the Hoffman forgeries, you know, so. Yeah, it's it's kind of unfortunate that that that that they instead of trying to attack your arguments, they attack your character. And I don't and having watched you in interviews and I'm talking to you in person, you know, I don't know why they would attack your character either.

I mean, what do they have to attack? Really? I mean, you're the sweetest lady around.

I drink coffee. What more do we need to say? So going back to kind of like your your methods of how you and Gerald would do your research, your historical research, you know, you typically went to primary sources, you really went to back to the original sources and tried to figure out the history from there. But why do you think that some LDS historians didn't come to a lot of the same conclusions that you and Gerald did?

Well, you're assuming they didn't. I think there's I think you look at what is said at Mormon History Association that they have a conference once a year that many of their speakers are conceding the points that we were trying to get people to see that we were writing on in the 60s. We talked about the 26 trial, about the my mind's going blank, but all these different problems with the first vision. We were the ones in the 60s talking about the problem of different accounts of the first vision and then talking about the 1832 account of the first vision that only has Jesus appearing in it.

We were talking about all those things in the 60s that Farron Farms had to start arguing. We were right on top of putting out stuff on the Book of Abraham that it's not a translation. Well, they're just now getting around to saying, well, it's a revelation.

It doesn't have to be a translation. It's a revelation. Well, that's a big difference from what I was fighting back in the 60s.

Nippley was sure it was a translation. So through the years, we have seen them concede most of the major problems that we were dealing with years ago. And so they're conceding those things. Now, as far as their belief, some of them are able to some way marriage their making things less literal with their testimony.

And I don't know exactly how you work that. Many of them will concede that there is absolutely no physical evidence for the Book of Mormon. And yet they will turn around and say they have a testimony for the Book of Mormon. Then I want to know what the testimony is to just that it teaches about Jesus and has some good things in it. Why would we make it scripture if we're conceding it's a novel?

And that's what it would make it is a novel. If there is no archaeology, no evidence for a historical event, a people group or anything, and you can see that that it's not a translation, then what is it? Then it's a novel and is no more worthy of be scriptures than pilgrims progress. It can be inspiring and still not be scripture. So it's a funny mix of how the Mormon historians are able to change how they say things in such a way that they still say they have belief and yet concede that none of their arguments before that were literal work out.

So the Book of Mormon is not a translation. It's a revelation. The Book of Abraham's a revelation. Everything's a revelation, but it seems like revelation doesn't have to be accurate or it can be a novel. Well, then tell me why I should take it to scripture and people will say to me, but it's so inspiring.

And I said, I can take you to the Christian bookstore and show you a thousand inspiring books that will talk about Christ in the most reverential way you want to talk about him. But we don't make them scripture. So on what basis are we including that to the side of the Bible as well?

Not just as authority, more authoritative. They believe anything in the Book of Mormon before they believe it in the Bible. Mormon scriptures always trump the Bible on anything. Yeah, there's had a lot of thoughts going in my head.

Thank you for that comment, Sandra. I wanted to just mention really quickly that early on when I was questioning Mormonism and after watching Mormons, you know, Mormon stories, interviews, I watched the ones with John Hamer from Community of Christ. And I thought, hey, you know, that's you know, like maybe I can keep this Book of Mormon and I can keep these things. But they believe in the Trinity, you know, like I was a Trinitarian Mormon for a while. You know, I was reading I was reading James White's Forgotten Trinity on the bus ride to my LDS church house. And but so I ordered from the Community of Christ, ordered their version of the scriptures, you know, the Bible and the Doctrine and Covenants. And they also had several books in their store about the Book of Mormon.

So I was like, hey, I'll read those. And one of them was kind of just like a historical account of early converts, you know, to the LDS faith, like their view of the Book of Mormon, talking about how it's scripture, it's talking about the Native Americans all around us. So they had a very literal understanding of the Book of Mormon. And then the same another book by a different author from the exact same store, you know, the Community of Christ store.

I think it's called Millions Call It Scripture. And in that it talks about all the things you mentioned. It mentions there's not really any evidence of the Book of Mormon that it's historical. There's not really any places, people, groups or any of these weapons in the battles.

We can't find any of those. And it talks about how well other cultures have their books that they call scripture. You know, Hindus have their scripture, you know, Taoists have their scripture. So we just have our scripture and we take it as a very, you know, it gives us spiritual insight and inspires us.

And I looked at these two books and they seem like the exact opposite. One was telling us the original believers of the Book of Mormon thought it was a historical document. It was ancient scripture.

It really happened. And the other one was telling me, no, it's not ancient. It's not historical, but it can really help us out. And like that just drove me even further down the slope of, you know, leaving Mormonism. I'm like, you're like, well, what is truth anymore? If you can if you can't even decide on what is historical, what's not, it was it was a mess.

Yes. So that's that was I think that's one thing that that might there's a lot of LDS that we talked to that kind of go down that route of spiritualizing everything or, you know, kind of like taking and leaving historical parts of the faith and saying, well, this prophet said that that's not that big a problem. You know, what matters is, you know, what this faith gives me kind of a more, you know, subjective kind of experience with Mormonism. I find that they're willing to throw all their profits under the bus if they say anything that the person doesn't accept today.

And so today's profits, the only one we have to listen to. And then I asked them, well, why do you read the Book of Mormon then? Those are old prophets. Doctrine and Covenants is old prophets.

I don't understand the split they're trying to do now. Oh, that was then this is now that that was just Brigham Young. He was president of the church for what 30 40 years, whatever it was longest serving president of the church, and they want to throw him under the bus that oh that Brigham he said a lot of crazy stuff we don't pay attention to that anymore. Hey, if you've been sitting in conference that day it would have been scripture to you. They want to say today's conference is God speaking to us now, yet they won't give that to the past prophets that God was speaking to those people at that time in that conference. I had an interesting experience with that kind of thing when I first came home from my mission I, I took the idea that LDS prophets were profits seriously. And so I came home and I wanted to get access to as much of their teaching as I possibly could so I started to buy up, you know, the discourses of Brigham Young. There was a collection of Lorenzo snows writings and book form that I purchased and I just started to buy each book that had their collective teachings, and I would go online and I was reading through these books and I would share things that, you know, Brigham Young said or that Lorenzo Snow said and people, you know, other LDS people online found them to be a bit troublesome sometimes and they would, you know, often throw at me, you know, Ezra Taft Benson's talk the 14 fundamentals of following the prophet, you know that he kind of gives that same idea right that the living prophet is, is better than the dead prophets right. And I just kind of found that funny like what, like you were saying like, why, if they're prophets their prophets right you would you would want to study them so I find it strange too that they try to throw them under the bus. Yeah. And that's kind of why we ask our Latter-day Saint friends. So how do you know what your prophet is telling you now won't be contradicted by the prophet 10 or 20 years from now, you know, and I don't know, usually, I don't get a very solid response to that. But you know, that's something we want them to just think about.

Right. So we've talked a lot about your work with Gerald, some controversies that you've gone through, like the the Mark Hoffman, you know, forgeries. So we want to just talk about it with your experience seeing how Mormonism has kind of changed and adapted over the decades, how has apologetics and evangelization work with Mormons changed and in particular, you know, how has it changed since the church has become a more international church, especially since the 80s and 90s? Well, when we were leaving Mormonism, the majority of literature, dealing with Mormonism from a Christian perspective, were very small books.

Moody put out a couple of different ones. Gordon Fraser did one on the Book of Mormon, which, for its time was good on the Book of Mormon. But there were little pamphlets, there was a couple of little ministries in California that had had little tracks, some are better than others, but sincerely done.

But there wasn't a lot going on. We had, we struggled to find books that we could give to our family, because the ones that were out were mainly written for Christians, how a Christian could talk to the Mormon friend. But there wasn't a book that talked to the Mormon and or approached it in a way that a Mormon would read it.

So, and we found quite a few things have mistakes and that was one thing that probably launched us into doing our own work, as much as anything as we found so many errors in the different works that would be written up on Mormonism from people outside of Mormonism. A funny one that happens quite a bit is confusing of the Joseph Smith in Mormonism, because you have Joseph Smith, then you have his nephew, Joseph Fielding Smith. And you wrote, no, Joseph F. Smith, then Joseph Fielding Smith, then you get Joseph Smith McConkie. I mean, it just this Joseph Smith stuff confuses people. And so I'll read someone's pamphlet, and they're quoting it like it's Joseph Smith and it's really his nephew. And whoops, no, wrong prophet.

That's not the same guy. But because they write when they, they have a surface knowledge on Mormonism, but they haven't really got the players all figured out yet in the story. And so though we have, there's several families like that where you get a certain name that just keeps getting used. Well, like I'm descendant of Brigham Young, I'm also a descendant of Brigham Young Jr. And so you have people confusing, which Brigham Young they're talking about.

So, but coming up through the years. There got to be more people involved in trying to witness to Mormons and trying to learn how to talk more manese and to do their homework and that and so that was good. Some were better than others, but everyone was trying to do the best to figure out how to win the Mormons to Christ.

I think there was some excesses along the way where things got too much like a shouting match and too much of contention around Temple Square that gave a bad name to other Christians that tried to do a kinder, more informed approach. Mormon defenses have changed through the years as well. Mormon claims have changed. I mean, when I was growing up, the Book of Mormon was literally true. There really were knee fights and there really was a war on the hill komora in New York and we knew all these wonderful things, you know, and then over the years the church starts backing down from it all.

And so that changes the discussions and the debates back and forth because the claims keep changing and morphing. So we've had to up our game on the other side to answer the way the Mormon is approaching history and doctrine. Well, it's just like the silly thing that Nelson did when he got up at President Nelson a few years ago and said the Mormons aren't to use the word Mormon anymore.

And I'm like, what? I was a Mormon all my life. You know, what do you mean Mormon? No, we're not Mormons. Okay. And to make such a big thing out of that.

Who cares? Anyways, but they change on what's important, what isn't important. One of the shifts I've seen over these years is a shift from the literalness of everything in Mormonism, literal Book of Mormon, literal Book of Abraham translation, to a softer approach to it so that they are gradually trading the Mormon to speak of things in more spiritual ways instead of literal ways. And so that they can counter when someone points out to them an inconsistency in Mormonism, they can say, oh, well, you misunderstood. That wasn't meant to be literal. When it says horses in the Book of Mormon, it doesn't have to be horse like we think horse. It's whatever pack animal they had, you know.

Well, sorry, guys, you don't have one. I don't know what you're substituting. But they've softened on saying the absolutes and now more and more everything is going to feeling. And even testimony meetings are changing. So that when I grew up, we went to testimony meeting. Everybody said I testimony had to end something like this. I know that this is the only true church and that Joseph Smith God's prophet here on earth. And I know that whoever the prophet was currently throw in and he's a prophet of God. And I know the Book of Mormon is true. And I say this humbly in the name of Jesus Christ.

Amen. And good testimony is always always ended with this little kind of couple of stuff that put at the end. It was part of the almost like a liturgy. You had this little thing you ended with. You knew all these things were true. You don't hear that much anymore.

You listen, you look at conference. They used to always end their talks with something about I know it's the only true church and Joseph said his prophet. But many of them don't say that anymore.

They may just. I say this humbly in the name of Jesus Christ or something, but they don't have the same push for Joseph Smith's name like they used to. I just saw someone had posted on the last conference a chart of how the name Joseph Smith shows up in conference through the years. And you could see it hit a point in our lifetimes when suddenly it's all going down and Joseph's hardly get mentioned more than three times.

I mean, that is it's a major shift. They're trying to back step from pioneer talk and Joseph Smith. Part of that they want to include the whole world.

They're trying to make the Europeans feel like they're part of the team, even though they don't have pioneer ancestors or whatever. So it represents a change in the rhetoric they use, and they're upping this testimony value. I know this is the only true church. You know, I prayed about the Book of Mormon and God told me it was true. People used to come in and tell me that all the time.

Well, they'd come in the store, they'd say, Mrs. Tanner, I just have one question for you. Did you ever read the Book of Mormon and did you pray about it? And I tell them, yeah, I read the Book of Mormon quite a few times, actually.

I read it in the 1830 edition. But, you know, when I prayed about it, God told me it wasn't true. Well, then immediately, oh, well, you didn't pray right. Well, how do I know you prayed right? You know, it doesn't lead anywhere on that kind of argument, which is why they're going to more of that kind of an argument because no one can win. You know, God said this to me.

I don't care what he said to you. Just a long feeling. It does seem like there's this bifurcation in the church. There's kind of the conservatives that want to hold on to that traditional Mormonism that we're kind of more familiar with. And there's the other group that's, like you said, kind of going this more spiritualized direction. And it's going to be interesting to see how these groups clash with each other in the next few decades. I mean, we even see kind of a struggle of teaching and doctrine from Salt Lake City versus BYU. You know, sometimes you'll read articles from BYU professors. It's like, you know, there don't go directly counter to the church, but they show they teach different ideas that could that could possibly cause problems in the future. And it's just a very strange time in the LDS church today.

Like you said, it's a lot all about emotions, for the most part. And the change in the next prophet is going to be something to watch. Nelson, who's president right now, he's claiming revelation quite often.

He feels in the middle of the night. God speaks to him and he'll come out and say it was a revelation, except they don't always stick. He still had to change things along the way when he said it one way. The next three months later, he said it another way.

And three months later, another way, for instance. And a few years ago in general conference, they used to have a Saturday night priesthood meeting. And for years, everyone knew you came to Salt Lake. There was a Saturday night priesthood meeting. Well, then they decided that, well, the women were feeling left out or something, give them equal time. So then they started having every other conference. The men had a meeting and then the women had their meeting. And then it turned out people weren't happy with that. So then they went to having everybody there and the kids could come, too.

And then we got COVID and the whole thing stopped anyways. And now they're back to a Saturday night priesthood meeting. I don't know where we are in all this.

So I don't know where a Mormon knows what to trust. Because if they see it in mundane things, things just keep changing. And they've changed a lot in the last 20 years. Culturally, there's differences in how things are run in the way they used to be. I don't know why they don't bring back janitors. They got plenty of money.

That was another change. In my day, the guys on church welfare were given the job of being a janitor at the ward. So they had a job and were working, in essence. But there was a stigma to being the janitor at the church because everyone knew that you're probably on church welfare. And they have their own brand of canned goods that they do to help the down and outers and people have lost their jobs and stuff. But they have their own label. And so when a Mormon comes into your home, and if they see that label in your pantry, they know you're on church welfare. So it's a kind of shaming thing.

We had some in our family that were on church welfare, and I know they faced this embarrassment of having church canned goods on their shelves. But they're changing on a lot of how they do welfare, even. So we're going to see some changes when the new president comes in. And I say when, because the guy we got right now is, what is he now, 97 or something?

Do you know what? Yeah, he's up there. He's definitely.

Somewhere in that neighborhood. The next guy is going to be Oaks, Dallin Oaks. And he's more of a hardliner, at least what seemed to be in the past. So will he go back to a more literal approach to things?

We don't know. And the next guy is down from there. You know, is someone going to step up and say, hey, we've gone too liberal. We've got to go back to the real true ways? Or will it be someone that wants to take him further down the road of liberalizing their belief system?

Instead of saying we're the only true church, do they start saying we're the best church? Well, I think I already encountered that kind of pragmatist approach with people online quite a bit. So, yeah, Sandra, really appreciate you coming on Outer Brightness tonight. We appreciate the wisdom that you've shared here tonight.

There's several things that kind of stand out to me. One that really stands out to me is just the wisdom in joining Christians to be patient with Latter-day Saints as they make the transition. It is a difficult transition. And that's why our podcast exists, is to try to give a place for Latter-day Saints and those transitioning to listen and work through some of the doctrinal questions, historical questions in a place that they get to hear from people who have walked that road and understand what they're going through. But I wanted to give you a chance to talk a little bit about something that's coming up in your future. I understand there's a biography going to be coming out of you and Gerald.

Is that correct? Yes, the publisher is trying to get it ready for August because first part of August there's a conference here in town of ex-Mormons and Mormons and all kind of a study of Mormonism from all perspectives. Anyway, Sunstone has this large gathering for these several-day meetings and the publisher is trying to get the book done to have it for sale at Sunstone and we hope they are able to. And I can't tell you for sure the title because last week they were still debating on the final version, but it will have Gerald and Sandra Tanner somehow in the title.

We aren't sure what words are going to go before and after, but Gerald, Sandra, Tanner will be in the middle of it. But it'll be about our journey through the years and like us being accused of being communist and sued by the church and, you know, all kind of crazy stories in it. It's going to be published by a secular press. It's not a Christian press as such. So it won't be as devotional as like Michael Wilder's book, but it's the struggle of dealing with Mormonism for 60 years trying to bring people to Christ against a church that has more money than we'll ever dream of. And yet they were able to keep going and confuse people on what it means to follow Christ. So we hope that the book will be a help to others. See that you can walk that journey and still have faith in God, still trust in Christ, and go on with a Christian life.

You don't need to throw all religion out just because you see the error of Mormonism. Amen. Well, I definitely look forward to getting it and reading it when it comes out. And who wrote the book for you, Sandra?

Ron Huggins. He's actually a New Testament scholar, but he's had a sideline interest in Mormonism for many, many years and written articles for Mormon history publications and is a friend of ours. So that's nice. It's always nice to have a friend do your biography.

But I think people will find it an amazing, crazy life. And God's brought us through. Gerald had Alzheimer's and we kept the ministry going through all of that.

And God's been faithful through my whole life to whatever the problems have come up, God's taken us through and taken care of us. For sure. Like I said, I look forward to reading it. For our listeners, I encourage you to get it when it comes out.

Over the years, as I've studied out Mormonism, like I said, you quickly come to know the Tanners and Sandra is right. There are going to be some really interesting episodes in that biography. So get a hold of it when you can. Sandra, once again, thank you very much. We really appreciate you coming on. Yes, thank you. Thank you, Sandra. I really appreciate it. All right. Thank you very much. Have a wonderful rest of your evening and God bless. Thank you.

Fireflies. Thank you for listening. We have a special giveaway for you. Here's how to win. Be one of the first to hear this message. Go to the Outer Brightness Facebook group. That's the discussion group, not the page. Find the post with the heading Lighthouse giveaway. Post the secret word as a comment on that post. Be one of the first three listeners to do so and you will win a copy of the biography. Lighthouse. Gerald and Sandra Tanner despised and beloved critics of Mormonism. The secret word is Lighthouse. Thank you.
Whisper: small.en / 2022-11-08 15:14:48 / 2022-11-08 15:29:26 / 15

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