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Interview with Sandra Tanner Mormonism: Shadow or Reality

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever
The Truth Network Radio
March 9, 2021 8:33 pm

Interview with Sandra Tanner Mormonism: Shadow or Reality

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever

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March 9, 2021 8:33 pm

Join us as Bill and Eric interview Sandra Tanner, cofounder of the Utah Lighthouse Ministry, on the subject of Mormonism: Shadow or Reality. This book was first produced in 1963 and more than 60,000 copies have been distributed, a book that may have led more people out of Mormonism than any other single volume.

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Viewpoint on Mormonism
Bill McKeever
Viewpoint on Mormonism
Bill McKeever
Viewpoint on Mormonism
Bill McKeever
Viewpoint on Mormonism
Bill McKeever
Viewpoint on Mormonism
Bill McKeever

In their own words, a collection of Mormon quotations compiled by Mormonism Research Ministries Bill McKeever is a valuable resource when wanting to know what Mormon leaders have said on a given topic.

Pick up your copy at the Utah Lighthouse Bookstore or In 1979, Mormonism Research Ministry has been dedicated to equipping the body of Christ with answers regarding the Christian faith in a manner that expresses gentleness and respect. And now, your host for today's Viewpoint on Mormonism.

Our thanks to Adams Road Band for that musical introduction. Welcome to this edition of Viewpoint on Mormonism. I'm your host, Bill McKeever, founder and director of Mormonism Research Ministry, and with me today is Eric Johnson, my colleague at MRM. But we also have with us a very good friend of ours, Sandra Tanner. Sandra Tanner is with the Utah Lighthouse Ministry, also runs the Utah Lighthouse Bookstore at 1358 West Temple in Salt Lake City.

Sandra, welcome back to the show. And yesterday, Eric was talking about a statement that was written by Wes Walters. Wes Walters had done a lot of research in the early years of Mormonism. He's the one that came up with the information, basically proving that there was no 1820 revival as Mormons are led to believe. But he had some very positive things to say about your book, Mormonism Shadow or Reality. And he mentions in this comment that Eric was reading yesterday, that there was an institute teacher here.

Now, an institute teacher would be more on a university, a college level that Mormon students go to, as opposed to, let's say, on a high school level, they call it seminary. But there was this institute teacher here not long ago who lost his testimony and went out of the church on the basis of this stuff. And the stuff, of course, is what you include in Mormonism Shadow or Reality. I'm sure that's happened for a lot of people who read it.

It's devastating information, but what's amazing, folks, is it's all their information. So when you hear Latter-day Saints referring to Mormonism Shadow or Reality as an anti-Mormon book, you have to question that. Is it really anti-Mormon when you're quoting their own material?

I would say that can't possibly be true. But what's your favorite story of Mormons who have read your book and decided that they wanted to leave the church? Well, I had one man tell me that someone in his family had given him our Mormonism book and challenged him to read it. And so when he got the book home and started into the book, he was soon getting uncomfortable with information that was unsettling.

And he's looking at the table of contents and contemplating all the topics that the book covers. And he said to himself, if only half of this material is accurate, I have a big problem. And so then he read the book, came out of Mormonism. I don't remember if he became a Christian, but he came out of Mormonism from reading the book.

Only half. I would go so far as to say, if you take any of those sections that are within your table of contents, if some of those sections can't be proven true, or maybe I should reword that, the problem is, is a lot of those sections are actually true. But I mean, if a Latter-day Saint was to recognize that information as being true, I would think it would be devastating, especially when you're dealing with the personality of Joseph Smith himself and the fact that the church saw fit to even change some of the things that he supposedly proclaimed. The Book of Mormon, you show that this book cannot be an ancient work. If it's not an ancient work, then what does that say about Joseph Smith's claim for the work?

But wouldn't you agree, Eric, if just one of these sections would be devastated in and of itself? One of the sections in there is the Book of Abraham. Now, you have to know a little bit of the history of the Book of Abraham papyrus that was rediscovered in the 1960s at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

The church didn't really say a whole lot until 2015 when they wrote a Gospel Topics essay and admitted that the translation was spiritual and not literal. Tell us a little bit about your research in the Book of Abraham and what you feel the information that you have in this book preceded anything that the church ever admitted to. Well, back in the mid 60s, ancient history, there were rumors going around at that time that the papyri that Joseph Smith supposedly used for his Book of Abraham scripture was still in existence somewhere.

And so everyone was trying to figure out where they were. Well, then it came out in 1968 that the Mormon Church had acquired some papyri from the Metropolitan Museum in New York that were Joseph Smith's original papyri. That he used for the Book of Abraham. So that launched everyone into a study of Egyptian and we started writing on it immediately and work that Gerald did clear back at that time on how the Book of Abraham was put together, how the illustrations in the Book of Abraham had been altered. And the work he did clear back then is still valid today.

Now the scholars through the years realized there was a problem and they've tried to come up with rationalizations for why the papyri don't translate. But at this point, most scholars are convinced that the Book of Abraham is at best a revelation and at worst a fabrication of Joseph Smith's. But we laid out the groundwork of the case of showing that was the case clear back. By 1970, we had laid out the groundwork on all of that. That research in shadow is still valid today on what we said. I'm rereading the changing world of Mormonism that I talked about yesterday and I am fascinated.

In 1980, that's still 40 years ago and for the most part, everything is valid except for things that the church has changed in the recent years. And I find that to be fascinating that you wrote this before there was a thing called the internet. How in the world, Sandra, did you find the information to be able to write what you did and to be accurate?

Before you answer that, Sandra, let me just say for our listeners' benefit, I'm looking at your section on Chapter 22, Follow the Book of Abraham. You have photocopies, facsimiles, whatever you called them back then, from the original Egyptian writings. I'm looking at at least three pages of these photographs.

Like Eric said, nowadays, a lot of stuff is pretty easy to find if you know where to look on the internet. But here, we're talking about the 1960s, folks, and you already have these pictures and you're publishing them. Well, the Mormon church issued photographs of the papyri fragments in 1968 and the BYU studies came out with an article and it included the photos of those different pieces. So, I believe our photos come from the BYU studies article.

So, the church was putting out its defense of the Book of Abraham at that time and trying to grapple with the problems it presented because they could see it doesn't read Egyptian and they're trying to answer it. Our research took us to various libraries. Some friends of ours had fantastic personal libraries of all the original books on Mormon history. So, between what our friends had in their own libraries and what was at the university libraries that we visited, we were able to pull together material from all these different sources. But it's very time consuming, especially if you go to someone's house to read their book.

You can't make a photocopy, so you have to write it all out. By the late 60s, the libraries had photo machines to where you could go in and pay a dime or whatever they charged to make a photocopy, which really helped in research. But it did require tremendous time at different libraries. Did they know your name at the library? Yes, but fortunately the University of Utah is a state institution and also the Utah State Historical Society was a state institution.

So, they did not have a policy of restricting access. And the Salt Lake Public Library downtown has a very fine special collection on early Mormon documents. So, those were the three main libraries we went to, but we also went to libraries out of state as well, as much as we could afford. Sandra, we think that your book, Mormonism Shadow Reality, is probably the most important single book or work in the kind of history of Mormonism. And I'm going to include Fawn Brody's No Man Knows My History, How's Mormonism Unveiled, Grant Palmer's An Insider's View of Mormon Origins. I can name other books, but in one descriptor, Bill and I both think that your book is groundbreaking. And I'm going to admit that when Bill and I are doing Viewpoint on Mormonism and we're not sure of something, one of the first places that we go is Bill will pull out.

And it's, I mean, it's pretty well colored with all the times you've used it. 1972 edition of Mormonism Shadow Reality. And we want to ask ourselves, what did the Tanners write about this? And we'll get information that we didn't have before. So we think this is the most important book in the past six decades. What's your reaction to that?

Well, I'm really happy to hear that. And I think that for an overview of the problem areas for a single volume, I believe our book does that better than the other material. Now, there are many fine historical studies that have come out that specialize in a given area of Mormonism. Like Larson's book, By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus is a very fine book on the Book of Abraham, but that's just the Book of Abraham. And there are two dozen important topics of Mormonism that aren't covered in that book.

Mike Quinn's book on Early Mormonism and the Magic Worldview is an important book, but that's one book just dealing with Joseph Smith's magic involvement. Well, we have a whole chapter on it, but we have chapters on everything else as well. And that's why I think it's a most valuable work because you don't have to specialize in a book on polygamy or the Book of Abraham or whatever topic you're getting into. We can look at yours and in 20 pages, you cover it pretty well.

Then we can go further and we can look deeper if we need to. But like I say, Bill and I have oftentimes used your book and gotten what we needed out of it in five minutes. We're able to use that information in a show that we're doing or an article we're writing.

So we think that's so important. What do you think it would have been like to have had the Internet available to you when you were writing Mormonism Shout at Reality? Oh, it'd been fantastic. Just to have a photocopy machine would have been fantastic. I used to have to go up to the University of Utah evenings and make photocopies of different things. And so finally we bought a photocopy for our own use at our house at our little bookstore we had in the front room. And that was such a godsend just to have our own photocopy machine. But to have had the Internet, oh my goodness, we would have had to done volumes. We wouldn't have just had one volume for a shadow reality.

We'd probably had a 10 volume set. I can imagine. We've been talking with Sandra Tanner. She's with Utah Lighthouse Ministry and runs the Utah Lighthouse Bookstore, which I might mention is where you can order a copy of Mormonism Shadow or Reality.

Just simply go to For more information about Mormonism Research Ministry, we encourage you to visit our website at, where you can request our free newsletter, Mormonism Researched. We hope you will join us again as we look at another viewpoint on Mormonism. Looking for a book on Mormonism from a Christian perspective? Or do you have questions about the history or doctrines of the LDS Church? Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson are once again volunteering at the Utah Lighthouse Bookstore and would be glad to speak to you on Saturdays from 1 to 5 p.m. The Utah Lighthouse Bookstore is located right there at 1358 South on West Temple Street in Salt Lake City. Be sure to come by any Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. and say hi to Bill or Eric.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-17 06:53:10 / 2023-12-17 06:58:31 / 5

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