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Interview with Sandra Tanner Mormonism: Shadow or Reality

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever
The Truth Network Radio
March 10, 2021 8:35 pm

Interview with Sandra Tanner Mormonism: Shadow or Reality

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever

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March 10, 2021 8:35 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, the program that examines the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from a biblical perspective. Viewpoint on Mormonism is sponsored by Mormonism Research Ministry. Since 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. 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've also had the pleasure this week of having with us our good friend, Sandra Tanner, who is the head of Utah Lighthouse Ministry and also runs the Utah Lighthouse Bookstore at 1358 West Temple in downtown Salt Lake City. We've been talking about a book that Sandra and her husband put together. And this was back in the early 60s, a book titled Mormonism Shadow or Reality, a book that certainly has been a huge help, I know to me personally, but also a big help to a lot of people who are researching Mormonism, as well as many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were having struggles with some of the things that they were led to believe as members of the LDS church. We've talked, Sandra, about some of the chapters that you have in the book, and we've dealt specifically with the Book of Abraham, you know, a number of pages dealing with the Book of Abraham. I think for today's topic, I want to talk about how really ahead of its time your book was, because you were talking about things that I'm sure the LDS church was a bit uncomfortable having get out into the public.

It's not that their scholars didn't know about a lot of this stuff, but getting that out into the general public would not look all that great. I want to speak specifically to what you have in chapter 21. Again, this is a book written in the 60s, and it's titled The Negro in Mormon Theology. I remember when I read this chapter years and years ago when I was first studying Mormonism, I was fascinated that a religious church could have leaders that said such horrible things. And certainly a lot of these things have been embarrassing for the church, but let's talk about that, because I think what you wrote here, and I'm looking at my edition as 1972, and we know that just a few years later in 1978, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was going to make a monumental course correction when it came to giving their priesthood to those of African heritage.

Talk a little bit about the content in this chapter, chapter 21, and where did you find a lot of this material? Well, there were some few references to the church's attitude towards blacks at that time, and there were a few Mormon books trying to rationalize why they didn't give priesthood to blacks. And like a man named Stewart wrote a book, Mormonism and the Negro. And so there were a few things out there from the Mormon side, and very little of a critical nature had been written on the topic from the outside. But what we did know was that there had been a man, Elijah Abel, a black man, who had been given the priesthood back in Joseph Smith's day.

And then when they came out, the Mormons came to Utah, Brigham Young developed a much more harsh attitude towards blacks, and they didn't continue to ordain blacks to the priesthood under Brigham Young. Well, Elijah Abel lived up into the 1880s, or when I can't remember just when he died. But we knew that he had come to Utah with the pioneers, and that he had been ordained to the priesthood back under Joseph Smith.

But then we didn't know much beyond that about him. A friend of ours got curious and started researching the Abel family and found out who some of the descendants were. And so then we got curious about what was the story behind the children of Abel and found that his son and grandson also had been ordained to the priesthood out here in Logan. So I went to the genealogical library, the Mormon's genealogical library, and was able to get records from the wards in the area and newspapers in the area and started looking for any notices about the family. And I was able to find a microfilm that had the story of Elijah Abel, a grandson who also had been ordained to the priesthood.

Well, no one was talking about this. And so I wanted a photocopy of the ordination certificate because in 1934 he's made a priest. And so that's pretty late to still have a black being ordained to the priesthood. So I needed a photo of that document because no one would ever believe us.

We could just say that, but Mormons thought we lied about everything. So unless I had a photo, no one will believe that. But microfilms at that time were the only way you looked at old documents. And a microfilm reader was like a tripod and up on the top of the tripod, you would have had a film and you could shine the image down onto a surface in front of you that would be like 18 inches square.

And so then you roll the film and make these images on this white sheet on your desk through using this tripod. You could go through these records of the old newspapers. And so here was this photo of the ordination certificate. I didn't dare go up and ask the people at the genealogy library for a photo because I was afraid they would see that it was lied to, see the name Abel, and maybe someone would recognize it. And I didn't want to get in an argument with whether or not I was qualified as a kosher person to get a photocopy at the Mormon library.

I didn't think they'd give me permission. So Gerald and I talked about how we could get a copy of the film of this page. And at the time our printing process used a paper master material.

So it's a photographic kind of paper. And we thought, well, if we shine that microfilm down onto that photographic paper, would we be able to burn a copy through that process? And so then we had to try to figure out, well, how long would the photographic paper need to lay on the table under the film, under this film shining down onto it, to burn that image?

And so Gerald had figured out how many minutes he thought it would take approximately. So I went up to the genealogical library, had rolls of film in my purse, and then one by one I would lay a piece of this photographic material on the platform table of the reader and sit there for a few minutes till I thought it had been long enough to expose the image onto that film. And then I put it in my purse and put out another one. So we did several takes of this. And then when I got home, we had to develop then this microfilm paper and were able to get an image of the ordination certificate. And this, the first time this ever was brought to light was when we put it in our book. But research is very technical and time consuming. Oh, Bill, isn't that different than pushing control P on our computer and having it come out? Look at the process that had to be done. And I don't think most people would understand that. I mean, you telling me that now I'm amazed because I had no idea you had to do all of that to get to that little piece of paper that says he was ordained.

Yeah, right. Another area where I think your book was ahead of its time is dealing with the temple ceremony. Now we know that at that particular time in the sixties, every Latter-day Saint who went through the temple endowment ceremony had to make a blood oath, if you will, not to talk about a lot of what they learned inside the ceremony. So getting information about it would be very difficult, but yet in your book, Shadow or Reality, you have the dialogue, you have a transcript of a temple endowment ceremony.

How did you come about that? And what kind of response did you get from Latter-day Saints when this comes out in public? Because this is something that most Latter-day Saints are real protective of. Well, in 1930 timeframe, a minister by the name of Paden had done a printing of the Mormon temple ritual from that early time period. But since then, I don't know that anyone had done a full transcript of the temple ritual. Well, when we got doing our research, we thought that ought to be updated because a lot of things had changed in the temple ritual since 1930. So we started talking to different former Mormons about trying to update that expose that was done years before.

And along the way, we ran across a researcher who was still a member of the church, but didn't believe it anymore. And he was a temple worker in Oakland, I believe. And he heard that we were working on doing an updated version and came to us and said he would offer his help in getting an accurate account of the temple ritual. And he actually was able to copy some of the temple records. He had access to the, as I recall, the temple president's office and was able to look at some of the printed dialogue that they keep in their file at the temple to make sure it all stayed on track and was being done right.

And he was able to get some material from there that made it work perfect for certain parts. And then the rest, he just went a number of different times to the temple to correct his script until he finally was satisfied that he had expanded that earlier expose to update it for that time in 1970, whatever it was that he had done the temple ritual. So it was a fellow on the way out of Mormonism that did the account.

Eric, I think we're pretty spoiled with what we have available to us now, but really when you think about it, all the research that you did, Sandra, kind of leading up to where we are today. And when this dialogue gets out, naturally a lot of people are very offended by it because in the ceremony it makes fun of a Christian minister who's in the employment of Lucifer to preach false doctrines. A lot of Latter-day Saints would probably be offended by some of this who were not familiar with the ceremony because many Latter-day Saints never even go to the temple for their temple endowment.

That's kind of changed a little bit in recent years. But eventually in 1990, a lot of revisions are made to the temple ceremony. And I remember when Eric and I were talking to an individual, a young Mormon who had just gone through the ceremony for the first time. She was a young missionary. This was down in Temple Square. We were bringing up a lot of the things that you have in your book.

She was completely oblivious to it, had no idea. And I thought already we are seeing a brand new generation of Latter-day Saints who don't even know what this ceremony was about prior to 1990. We've been talking to Sandra Tanner, co-author of Mormonism Shadow or Reality, and tomorrow we're going to be wrapping up this session with Sandra Tanner.

Thank you for listening. If you would like more information regarding 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 / 2023-12-16 23:34:41 / 2023-12-16 23:39:50 / 5

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