The title of my talk presents a certain amount of problems for the historian, "Reflections on 42 years of apostasy." The question is, "What does that mean and how old am I?" (audience laughter) Actually we started this when I was three. (audience laughter)
Now the problem with the date is that Jerald and I have been married for 43 years, for which we out to get some type of reward, right? (audience applause) And that without the benefits of a temple marriage.
Now on the 42 years aspect, the question is, am I counting from the time of my first doubts, my first vocal questions, my first challenge to the bishop, when I set the date for my marriage, when I went to my excommunication trial, or when I gave up the Book of Mormon?
I guess it boils down what your definition of what "is" is. (audience laughter) Now, I'll leave this up to the guys at FARMS to try to decide if I've over stated or understated the number of years (audience laughter) or maybe I just can't count. But I refuse to explain on the grounds that it might incriminate me.
Just to set the record straight a newspaper in Colorado once ran an article on Mormonism and in it they mentioned Jerald and I and our writing on Mormonism. In the article they mentioned that I was the great great "grandmother" of Brigham Young. (audience laughter) I soon got a letter asking if I could possibly be that old. I am old, but not that old.
So to set the record straight I am a great great granddaughter of Brigham Young. I was raised on faith promoting stories about Brigham Young. I knew I descended from a legal wife, Mary Ann Angel. However, I hadn't been informed that he had at least fifty or more other wives. I knew he had some others, but I thought, "Like five or six," I had no idea of the scope of this and I didn't realize he had fifty-six children, give or take one or two. But I grew up knowing he was the prophet. How else could he have designed the tabernacle and laid out the streets of Salt Lake City if it wasn't by prophetic ability?
I never heard anything negative about him in my youth. My great grandpa was Brigham Young, Jr., son of Brigham Young. He was an apostle and president of the Twelve at the turn of the century. I descend from his form one of his plural wives, Abbie Stevens. Abbie Stevens Young was still alive when I was a young girl in grade school.
In fact, visiting with Grandma Young, it never occurred to me that polygamy would ever have been for lust (audience laughter) because she was a pretty plain looking, ancient woman.
One of Grandma Young's faith promoting stories was how God protects those that are faithful to live the Law of God. She used to tell how that when the wicked Federal Officers would come looking for Great Grandpa Young that they had to devise ways to keep him from the law. And of course the law was always the "bad guys." It wasn't that there could be a legitimate legal issue here. They were the bad side always trying to get the righteous people.
So she told of how one day when they got advance warning that the marshal was coming here in Utah she devised this plan. She told Brigham Jr. to quick, get into her bed clothes, her night hat and all and to lay in the bed, shiver and moan and act like "she" was really sick. So when the federal officers came in, they wanted to know if they could search the house. She said, "Yes, but my poor mother is dying and she is very, very ill and you can search the whole house but please don't disturb her."
They said, "Okay, fine." So they looked through the entire house and under the bed. They don't find Brigham, Jr. and then leave. So that was Grandma's story to me about how God protects the faithful.
She didn't happen to mention that Grandpa was participating in not only polygamy, but post manifesto polygamy. But that's life in the Young household.
Their son Walter married a woman by the name of Sylvia Pearce and the Pearce family also had a place in Mormon history. I didn't appreciate the Pearce family heritage in my younger years because I had never been told how they fit in the scheme of things.
If you read Will Bagley's new book on the Mountain Meadow Massacre, you'll find out about the other part of my family, the Pearces. My great great grandfather was Harrison Pearce and my great grandpa was James Pearce . James Pearce and Harrison Pearce both participated in the Mountain Meadow Massacre.
In Will's book you'll read about how during the massacre, when James, only eighteen at the time, tried to protect a girl from being killed, Harrison came up, tried to get the girl from him and shot James and pierced his ear. Harrison has the infamous quality of being known for his fanaticism in Southern Utah and was one of those pushing for the extermination of the whole wagon train. So, I have an illustrious past on both sides of my mother's family of both ends of the Mountain Meadow Massacre.
I remember in the 1960's when we were living here in Utah, a cousin of my grandma's, a woman named Mildred, came to stay a while at Grandma's house. Everyone came to stay at Grandma's house because she was up in the Avenues in a great big two-story house. Everyone stayed there for free lodging and also so they could do temple work.
So Mildred moved in for a year or two so she could do temple work. Well, one day she noticed my grandma's bookshelf, that she had a copy of John D. Lee's book, "Mormonism Unveiled" and asked Grandma if she could take it to her room to read it and Grandma said yes.
And then sometime later Grandma realized the book had never shown back up on the shelf and so she asked Mildred to give it back. And Mildred said, "Oh, Sylvia, I destroyed that book." Grandma asked, "Why would you destroy that?" Mildred replied, "Well, it was the Pearce's in the back of that book and participated in the Mountain Meadow Massacre. You wouldn't want the family to ever see that!"
So that was life with Mildred. She was a nice old lady, but protective of our family's keep dark secrets.
My Grandma Sylvia who married Walter Young, must have had some reservations in her younger life because my mother says when she was growing up that my Grandma, who had nine children so obviously they were locked into the system, would tell her children, "Don't stand up in testimony meeting and say, 'I know it's true.' Say, 'You believe it's true.' You are not old enough to use the words 'I know.'" As a Mormon in that time frame she obviously had some questions she wasn't talking about.
By the way, my grandma boasted that my grandpa never saw her naked in her whole life and she had nine children. (audience laughter) She gave birth to all of them at home.
When Grandma and Grandpa got married the Pearce's and Young's uniting...now remember, Walter was raised in a polygamous home, his mother is a polygamous wife of Brigham Young, Jr. and so he's still converted to the polygamy idea. This is just after the turn of the century so he wants Grandma to go into polygamy and my grandma .................... Who it really was my grandpa wanted to marry.
So when he proposed this to Sylvia, Sylvia being a very creative person and somewhat of an independent mind, tells the story that as they were sitting on the couch, she went into this trance state and had a vision. Her spirit went up into the corner of the room and the next thing she knew Walter was shaking her. "Sylvia, Sylvia, wake up. What's the matter? What's the matter?" And Grandma came to and says, "Walter, God has revealed to me that we are not to go into polygamy." (audience laughter)
We thought that in the family that would put an end to the whole thing. However, after my grandma and oldest aunt died and we got to going through all the old family papers and things my aunt had kept in her possession we found a post card dated around the 1912 period. This post card starts out, "To my loving husband Walter " and continues on, "hope you come and see the boys soon. We miss you, your loving and affectionate wife, 'so and so.'" And "so and so" wasn't Sylvia! (audience laughter)
So when my mom and sister are going through all these old papers my sister sees this and says, "Mom, this isn't grandma's hand writing. What's this?" No one in my family has a clue who this woman is. Where she fits. There are no records. We have no idea. All we have is a post card "to my loving husband Walter." Evidently Grandma's revelation didn't work. (audience laughter)
Another sign of Grandma's independence (This is all part of my apostasy. My apostasy started with this grandma.) was in the 1940's when Fawn Brodie brought out "No Man Knows My History," a horrible thing - heaven forbid anyone ever being seen browsing through this thing. At this point there was an announcement made here in Salt Lake and I don't know how far afield, to the sisters in Relief Society, that NO one is to read that book! "Sister's, don't go read that book!"
So my grandma being the curious kind wanted to know what it was she wasn't supposed to read. So she went down to the bookstore and bought one. (audience laughter) This started her on a journey, started my mother and my oldest aunt on a journey of trying to figure out the roots of Mormonism. Now my family had some of the old books but my grandma, aunt and mother started scouring used bookstores to acquire more old books, original books and earlier things on Mormonism. This started their program.
My grandma always wore her garments even after she left the Church, she wore her garments. She always had an extra pair in her purse. (audience laughter) My grandma loved to travel. She was always ready. She had extended family all over creation. I swear, we must have been related to half the people of the West. She was ready at the drop of a hat to go with anyone anywhere. Just bring your car, you got room, grandma wants to go.
She figured if she had a toothbrush and an extra pair of garments she was ready for anything. (audience laughter) One day when they were out of town visiting a few hours drive from home visiting someone and some family came from Arizona... The Pearce's help found Taylor, Arizona and so Grandma had a lot of relatives there. She decided, well, if somebody were visiting from there, she'd hop in the car and back to Taylor and visit all her old family. But she thought she needed more than just one pair of garments. She and her oldest daughter wore the same size so she took my aunt in the other room and made her strip all her clothes. It was winter so she had a coat. And she said, "You'll be okay, you're just driving back home. You just wear you coat home." And Grandma took all her clothing with her. (audience laughter)
Coming up into the late 1950's the Tabernacle Choir was going on a tour of Europe and Grandma wanted to go too. But she hadn't renewed her temple recommend for a while and she wanted to go through the Swiss Temple. So she went to the bishop for an interview. In the ward up in the Avenues here, everybody knows everybody and known everybody for a hundred years.
The bishop asks, "Well, how's it going?" "Oh, everything's fine." He says, "I have to go through the questions here. Are you keeping the Word of Wisdom?" "Oh yeah, I keep the Word of Wisdom. I do have a cup of coffee in the morning, but other than that, I keep the Word of Wisdom." The bishop says, "Well, Sylvia I can't give you a temple recommend then." "Well, why not." "You just said you have coffee in the morning." "Yes, Bishop. You and I know everyone on the block has coffee in the morning." "Yes, but didn't tell me!" (audience laughter and groans)
At this time Grandma is still kind of hanging onto Mormonism. I told her that I had heard a rumor that the Church was going to change to allow short garments in the temple. Up until then you had to wear the long ones in the temple, when you went through the ceremony.
I told my grandma about this and she said, "If they do that I'll know there's no truth to Mormonism!" She did eventually leave the legacy but she always wore garments. When she died her funeral here in Salt Lake, just down the street at a local mortuary. She was all decked out in her temple clothing but she had a Protestant funeral service. (audience laughter) I'm sure this gave the neighbors some curiosity and it wasn't long after that a new rule was passed down that if you were buried in your temple clothes, it had to be conducted by a Bishop. I don't know if Grandma had a factor in getting that rule passed but sequentially Grandma's came first.
After I left Mormonism my mother told one of her experiences when she and my dad got married in the Salt Lake Temple. I've grown up hearing about the temple ceremony but it was always put to me in these very abbreviated forms: "They act out the play of creation and overview the Church and the gospel." That was the gist of it.
One day I asked her, "How did you really feel when you went through the temple?" This is after I leave the Church and she can tell me what she really thinks. "It was horrible. It was also funny. When we went in and sat down with the women on one side and the men on the other. Your Dad was the only guy in the audience that had his hat on crooked and turned the wrong way as anybody else and sat there wondering if I should laugh or cry." And she said it absolutely ruined their wedding night because Dad was so fanatic, he wouldn't let her take her garments off for their wedding night and Mom said she felt so ugly that is just ruined the whole evening for her.
Back in the 1930's the garments were a lot more cumbersome and heavy in material and everything that they wore. She did not find this a beautiful experience.
I was born here in Salt Lake City, but was raised in Southern California. In my grade school everyone was Protestant but three girls. There was Ellen. She was a Jewish girl and then Alice, who was Catholic and then me, who was Mormon. Ellen and I soon formed a great friendship and hung around together but we didn't allow Alice to hang around with us because, after all, Alice was pretty. (audience laughter)
In eighth grade some girl found out I was Mormon and she came up to me and she said, "Sandra, I understand you're Mormon?" "Yes." "So tell me, tell me what the Mormons believe about God?" Well, what do I say, and then I got it. "As man is, God once was, as God is, man may become." And I was so proud of myself for remembering that thing. She looked at me horrified, dropped her jaw and said, "Sandra, that's blasphemy!" and walked away. (audience laughter)
My real claim to fame in life is that I went to high school with Richie Valens at San Fernando High, which is hardly a place to promote a good Mormon upbringing.
I was able to obtain a social life completely within the Mormon community. I got up early to go to Seminary. I mean early. Ours was at 6:00 in the morning. And then I went to school, but when I came home from school I would find my mom with the Journal of Discourses spread out on the floor or old church books and documents which she was marking up and going through. "Oh my word! One of these days!"
When we'd get ready to go to Sunday School, back then Mormons never took their scriptures to church, you all had a manual and you just took the manual. If you took your scriptures you were suspect, because you were "doubting Thomas" if you had to look something up. We'd get up to go to church on Sunday and if my mom picked up her scriptures, I knew it was going to be one of those kind of Sundays.
In fact, one time she and my aunt were in Sunday School and were asking questions and some guy got so excited about the whole thing, shaking his fist at my mom and aunt and told them, "Only an adulterous nation seeks after a sign!" And that was supposed to silence them. (audience laughter)
After than my mom tried the investigator's class because she thought, "Okay, I'm an investigator, maybe someone has some answers?" That got her into trouble so the bishop soon told her she couldn't attend that class. So all she had left was genealogy and she didn't' want to do that so that cramped her church attendance.
When I was going to Seminary, the year we studied the Old Testament, became problematic because we had Jehovah's Witness neighbors and they had talked to us about the importance of calling God, Jehovah.
In Seminary we were taught that when Moses talked to the Lord face to face that was Elohim and that's how you knew God the Father has a physical body. Now Jesus is Jehovah. He's usually the god who shows up in the Old Testament, but once in a while it's Elohim. And that's how we know God's got a body, from these places.
My mom asked me, "Well, how do you know when it's Elohim or Jehovah? Why don't you ask in Seminary? How do you know which it is?" So I go off to Seminary and I raise my hand. "How do we know when it's Elohim or Jehovah?"
"Oh well, this verse shows that God has a physical body, so we know that's Elohim. Now, most of the time over here, it's Jehovah."
"Well, but there is no way to tell!
"Well, you can tell by the context. We use these to prove God has a body, otherwise, it's Jehovah."
I thought, "I don't think that's going to sell at home." So I would come home and tell that to my mom. She was always coming up with questions to ask at Seminary. (audience laughter) So you can see where that was all heading.
In my ward as a teenager in Southern California we had a really fanatic bishopric. In fact, one of the counselors one fast Sunday, decided he was going to help us out because it looked like we were slacking off. So he turned off all the drinking fountains in the building because he felt we shouldn't even have water on fast Sunday.
They used to send around the kids to get the Fast Offerings and when they'd come to our house they'd say, "We're collecting for the worthy poor." My mom finally got so fed up with all this that one Sunday, she told the kid, "When you start collecting for the unworthy poor, come around and I'll give you some money." (audience laughter)
I graduated from Seminary at the end of the eleventh grade. So in twelfth grade I started going to the Institute of Religion, which was a new program that started in Southern California. Twelfth grade in Institute wasn't a problem. I sailed along pretty good. My mother must have been too busy to bring up questions at that time.
When I started Junior College I was enrolled in a different Institute class and different things started coming up that reminded me of what my mother brought up before. I'd just pop up hand, well that reminded me of... I always wondered about and how that relates to...
Finally, the Institute teacher asks me to stay after the class. "Sandra, you're disturbing a girl who's investigating the Church and comes to Institute, with your questions." So I'm thinking, "Well gee, the solution would be answer the questions!" (audience laughter) But he didn't see it that way.
So it was about this time I came to Salt Lake City under the pretext so see my grand parents. Actually, I had a boyfriend at the BYU and I was afraid he was looking at other girls. Turned out he was. But my grandma Sylvia Young asked me to take her to a meeting.
She didn't tell me what kind of meeting it was going to be. I thought it was going to be a bunch of old fogies. I walked up to a house on the west side of Salt Lake. This nice, tall, good-looking young man answers the door and his name is Jerald Tanner. And this is not a Mormon meeting.
Jerald at this point who also comes from a fifth generation Mormon family had run across some Re-organized people who had got him thinking and questioning Utah Mormonism and started him on a quest where he went back to Independence, Missouri to visit all the "true churches." (audience laughter) Net result of all of that was he had reduced it all down to, "Well, I could still believe the Book of Mormon but the rest of it was going to be scrap."
So Jerald was having these meetings to play some tapes of friends of his from Missouri who had this journey out of the "Re-organized Church" but still believed the Book of Mormon. Well, I had just broken up with my boyfriend and here is this cute young man and so me being on this great spiritual quest, I walked up and said, "Jerald, why don't you come over to my grandma's house and tell me more of this." (audience laughter) So Jerald was so excited that someone finally wanted to talk about anything (audience laughter) he comes over with all these books.
Now, unfortunately for Jerald it was April first. If he had known me, he would have been on guard, but he didn't know me. So he comes in and at my grandma's table I had laid out everything that would be wrong for dinner. Like pie tins instead of plates, kitchen utensils instead of knives, forks and spoons, measuring cup for a glass. Jerald is trying to be the ultimate diplomatic person, looks at all of this, takes it all in, "This is cool, I can deal with this." He sits down. It's obvious that he's not going to deal with it and not going to say anything.
I just couldn't hold it back any more and started to laugh. It's a wonder our relationship ever went anywhere because I absolutely humiliated the guy the first time he came over.
One of the things Jerald told me about was the David Whitmer pamphlet addressed to all believers in Christ. Jerald started talking about how the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants had been changed. I thought, "That's something I can figure out." I went down to the bookstore and I bought a reprint of the Book of Commandments and I bought a current Doctrine and Covenants. I came home and asked my grandma if she would read these with me.
At the time I didn't appreciate how at that time how unusual a grandma she was. To have a grandma sitting there in here temple underwear willing to read the Book of Commandments against the Doctrine and Covenants with you, doesn't happen in every household.
So Grandma sat there for several days going through the Book of Commandments. By the time I got through with that it had accomplished two things. I had never read the Doctrine and Covenants before. I found it to be a little flat. (audience laughter) Seeing the changes was very disillusioning to me because I thought God's smart enough to do it right the first time. He wouldn't have to go back and re-write the whole thing. I mean, that He's going to need to word it a different way. We're not talking about translating here. We're talking about direct communication to Joseph.
But the real problem was when I told Jerald I was a direct descendant of Brigham Young. He said, "Ah, have you heard of Brigham Young's sermons?" I said, "No, would you read me some?" "Yes." I didn't know I was getting set up. (audience laughter)
So for the next few nights we read several volumes of the Journal of Discourses and some of his most famous sermons. "If we have to give up polygamy to get statehood, we'll never give it up." Well, that didn't work. "Will the Civil War free the slaves?" Well, that didn't work. "Sermons on Adam - God." Well, they didn't teach that in Sunday School.
The real clincher was when we got to "Blood Atonement." I read where he said, "Let me suppose the case where I caught my brother in bed with my wife. I would immediately put a javelin through them both and this would save them and I would be justified.", blah, blah, blah. This is loving your neighbors as yourself kind of stuff. There are certain sins you can commit that the blood of Christ won't cover? Where you own blood has to be shed?"
Here I am, this young girl, raised in a Mormon house, raised to idealize Brigham Young. My whole world just fell apart. Because I knew at that moment that Brigham Young didn't talk to God. Or let me put it the other way. I knew God wasn't talking to Brigham Young.
This caused all kinds of problems in the family. It was one thing to ask questions. It was another thing to leave. Another thing Jerald shared with me was the Book of Mormon taught one god and it had very different doctrines, that the Mormon Church agreed more with the Bible than it did with Mormonism. So if I were really going to believe the beginning of Mormonism I would have to rethink what the Book of Mormon taught in light of what the Mormon Church taught. Of course, his pitch was, "Give up Mormonism, go with the Book of Mormon."
So Jerald and I had this whirl wind romance. You can imagine how ecstatic my family was over this? In two and a half months I went from being the most active Mormon girl in my ward to being an apostate, marrying an apostate.
In fact, I had a girl friend that got married the same weekend as I, that I had gone through high school with. She got married in the temple and I married and apostate at our home. You can imagine that talk that was in the ward. I'm sure I was used as a lot of examples to everybody as what not to do. (audience laughter)
The next week after my girl friend got back from her honeymoon, I asked her how her temple experience was. At that point I didn't know anything about the temple ceremony other than the brief little thing my family had given me about a nice little play about the creation and the Church doctrines. She just gushed. You would think that she had walked with God. It was the most beautiful and glorious thing.
I had missed everything by having a wedding in my front room and not in the temple. I thought, well, maybe it was a great ceremony but the Church isn't true. So it was kind of irrelevant. I could have never gone through the rituals because I knew I didn't believe the basics of Mormonism. Later when I read "Temple Mormonism" by Hayden, 1930's expose of the temple ritual, I had a hard time putting the two together in remembering how my girl friend was so ecstatic about the temple experience and reading the actual ceremony. To put these together was a real mind bender because I look at the ceremony and I'm thinking, "I don't know if I could have got through the whole thing?" And if I had, I certainly would not have come out and gushed to someone that this was the closest I ever came to God. But that was my girl friend. She stayed and I walked away.
Well, I started asking questions of my bishop and he supposedly had answers. This was in the ward my family was living in at the time we got married. We were still living in my old ward down in California. One day the bishop told me that he had found a guy in the ward who had questions just like me but had solved them all. So if I would just come to his office Sunday afternoon, we were going to take care of things.
I go down to the ward house and he has brother so-and-so there who has also struggled with polygamy, Adam-God, blood atonement and all these things. So now I'm going to get a big answer. The man says, "For the answer you need to read Joseph Fielding Smith's - Answer to Gospel Questions and Doctrines of Salvation."
Well, I had already looked through those for answers. I just look at him and turned to the bishop and I said, "Bishop, if you think that's the answer, you don't understand the question. I'm past Joseph Fielding Smith." "Well, you couldn't be past Joseph Fielding Smith." (audience laughter)
My bishop was a real nice guy and a convert to the Church and doesn't really know anything about it. So he's relying on this old brother in the ward to solve everything. He did write me a letter and said if I had a particular question he would submit it to Joseph Fielding Smith for an answer. This is when Joseph Fielding Smith was Church Historian and apostle prior to him becoming President of the Church. He said he'd submit it to Joseph Fielding Smith if I composed what to me was the one most important question to ask the Church Historian.
Jerald and I put our heads together and came up with what was one of the things my family owned, a set of books by Mormon historian, Andrew Jensen, of the 1880's, called "The Historical Record" - Volume Seven, I believe. Here was an account of the First Vision, but in the 1888 printing it refers to the experience in the grove and describes it as an angel. But when the Historical Record was reprinted a couple of years later, that section was modified and now when you got to Joseph's trip out into the grove, the being that appeared is labeled "The Christ" instead of the angel.
Well, Brodie has brought up in her book the question of the first visions and we had started looking at that, all of that and realized that there were some real historical problems on this whole issue. So my question for the bishop and Joseph Fielding Smith was, "When Andrew Jensen wrote that account of the First Vision and he said the being that appeared to Joseph Smith in the grove was an angel, why did he say that and why was it then changed to The Christ?"
We get a letter back from Joseph Fielding Smith, which was, "If this young man and young woman would just quit listening to mouthings of the enemies of the Church - kind of response." When he finally got to the issue he just passed it off as saying "Well, of course the angel was Moroni."
I went to the bishop's office to read and hear this answer; he didn't send it to me. I'm looking at this paper..."Moroni?" I said, "Bishop, that's not an answer!" "Well, it certainly is. I've tried to do everything to try to help. The answer's right there, it's Moroni." (audience laughter)
"Bishop, this is an account of the first vision Jensen's talking about going out into the woods to pray which church is right and this says an angel showed up. It can't be Moroni! That is not an answer. Either Joseph Fielding Smith did not pay me the courtesy to even look at the document or he didn't care what the answer was, but his not an answer."
Well, he argued with the conclusion of the letter that I was listening to the mouthings of the enemies of the Church and obviously the problem was I was infatuated with my husband he was leading me astray. (groans from audience) Obviously, a woman could not have questions. Her husband had to lead her astray.
In October of 1959 I sent a letter to the bishop. We were in a different ward now when I decided to take my name off the roll. In fact, he'd gone through a number of sets of ward teachers because we kept asking questions and the next month we'd get a new set.
When I met with the bishop's court, I wanted to explain to them why I had asked for my membership to be terminated because you couldn't get your name off without having excommunication back then. I asked them to let me leave. They said I had to write a letter. So they had a bishop's court and served me papers just like a court case. They came right out to my house, two elders from the ward, handed me the paper that I was scheduled for church court next Sunday.
So I went and took several books with me so I could show them what my problems and questions were and why I couldn't believe Mormonism any more. I come into the bishop's office and of course it's four against one. They have the bishop, two counselors and a ward clerk. I said I just want to explain to you why I am having trouble believing Mormonism anymore. His comment to me was. "Sister Tanner, the Church is not on trial, you are. It doesn't matter what's in those books."
They proceed to build the case of apostasy against me, and of course they recounted the experiences with the ward teachers. "Yes, I said that to brother so-and-so. Yes, brother so-in-so came to our house. That's true..." So he's going through this list and he says, "Now I have a letter here that your husband sent to you ward teacher. Do you agree with the sentiment of this letter?" "I don't know, I haven't read it." "Well, read it." He hands it to me and I read through it. "Yes, I agree with the substance of the letter."
He turns to the ward clerk, "Be sure that you enter that into the record. She agreed with what's in the letter." Amazingly, they came to the conclusion that I was in a state of apostasy and announced that from this point forward I have relinquished my right to the kingdom of heaven. (groans from audience)
"Look, can I ask a question?" "What is it?" "Could you tell me when you say 'I am forfeiting my right to the kingdom of heaven' are we talking about all of heaven, or are we talking about the Celestial Kingdom, Terrestrial Kingdom or Telestial Kingdom?" (audience laughter)
"Sister Tanner, we are not here to debate this issue!" (audience laughter) "I just think it's a fair question. If you're going to throw me out, I think I have the right to know what is it I'm giving up." He huffed a little bit and finally said, "Well, the Celestial Kingdom." That's obviously why he didn't want to tell me because he didn't want to give me any encouragement for anything else. I was then informed in very solemn tones that they would no longer accept my tithing. (audience laughter and applause)
Well, first Christmas and when I get my Christmas cards, I get one from one of my aunts with the typical religious scene on the outside of the card and inside says, peace on earth, good will to men, Christ is born in Bethlehem concept. Then she hand writes under this out of the Book of Alma: "If thou wilt of thyself be destroyed, seek no more to destroy the Church of God." Merry Christmas, your loving aunt. (audience laughter)
We were living in Southern California and went around to various churches and it was uncomfortable because everything they did was different and we didn't fit in. Visiting around was a very unsettling experience, especially when we got to the one church that between Sunday School and church services, served coffee. (gasps from the audience) That was just about more than I could handle. I mean, how can anyone be truly religious and stand in the house of God and drink a cup of coffee? Mormonism may not be true, but there are just certain moralities that can not be violated. (audience laughter)
The summer of 1960 we moved back to Salt Lake City to continue our research and my Grandma Young was a widow. She married a Greek convert. I mean a real Greek who had immigrated from Greece, and was a convert out of the Greek Orthodox Church. Grandpa Philagios was his own character as well as my grandma.
I think in a way they both deserved each other because they both went into the marriage under sort of false pretenses. Grandpa assumed he was getting this faithful wonderful Mormon wife because, you see, she always wore her temple garments and went to church. So she must be a good Mormon. I mean this raving heretic inside, but outwardly showing others this persona of being a good Mormon. And she had a big home close to the Salt Lake Temple. So he thought he could set up missionary endeavors to convert all of the local Greek Orthodox of Utah to Mormons.
Grandma assumed that since Grandpa Philagios was retired from the Eastern Railroad that she'd get a free railroad pass and wouldn't have to jump in everyone's car to go everywhere. (audience laughter) However, since he worked for the eastern railroad his passes were not good for the west. And everyone she knew was in the west so it didn't do her any good.
Now she's got this Greek convert. Grandpa Philagios was writing all these inflammatory tracts against the Greek Orthodox. I find it really funny when Mormons say to me, "Why do you attack our church? We don't attack other people's churches." And I'm thinking, "Man, you should have met my step-grandpa!" (audience laughter) He got the Greek community so mad from these little tracts that he was writing, that he was getting death threats because they were going to come and blow up my grandma's house, which did not sit well with Grandma. (audience laughter)
He was a nice guy. One of his peculiarities was having a little bit of a problem asthma so he would get up at 3:00 in the morning and have a cup of coffee. But that was medicine for his asthma. Well, Grandma would get up at 9:00 in the morning and she'd have a cup of coffee at which point my grandpa would pontificate about the evils of breaking the Word of Wisdom. (audience laughter)
My grandma would say, "Well, you have coffee!"
"Well, yes. But that was medicine for my asthma."
Grandma replied, "Well, mine is medicine. If I take it at 9:00 in the morning, I don't have to get up at 3:00 in the morning." (audience laughter)
We lived just around the corner from my grandma. The bishop informed my grandmother she should not associate with us because we were a corrupting influence. I thought this was pretty funny since she started the whole thing by reading Fawn Brodie's book from years before. Not only that, she was the one who introduced me to Jerald. (audience laughter)
Now my poor grandma had to live that one down for a long time because all the family was sure that Grandma was responsible for me leaving the Church. And even though my mom had played a role in questioning in my teen years, she too was upset when I said I was leaving the Church.
It's one thing not to believe. It's another thing to formally leave the Church. They were all worried about what this would mean in family dynamics and friendships and all those kinds of things. Even though they didn't believe, no one had ever taken their names off the Mormon rolls. My mother is still alive. My grandmother is dead. They didn't believe any of it.
One of the things my mother talked a lot to me about at that time was that maybe we should be sure we had looked at all the options and we should probably try to talk to some of the church leaders and see if they had any answers. So we make an appointment with Lamar Barrett. Some of you may remember the old Seminary textbook "The Restored Church" by Lamar Barrett.
So we went down to see him and started telling him of some of the problems we had run across. One of the things we brought up was the problem with the Adam God doctrine and "here are these sermons by Brigham Young and we got out all of this stuff." He looked at us, "So, I've got a list twice this long." So we're thinking, "That's not an answer. Well, let's move on to the next thing."
What about the changes in the Doctrine and Covenants? "Well, the Church is working on that. They're about to bring out an "annotated Doctrine and Covenants" that going to have all the changes marked and foot noted, all the editions, when they came in. We have nothing to hide and we are up front." Well have you seen such an addition of the Doctrine and Covenants at Deseret Book? I haven't and that's been a few years ago.
One of the other men we went to see was LeGrand Richards, the apostle. Back then the Church was only a million people so it was easier to get in and see General Authorities. I mean not easy, but you could get in to see them.
One of the things we had written him about was the problem of the First Vision again. And we had told him we could not find any reference in the 1830's where anyone ever said that Joseph had told them that he had seen the Father and the Son. It looked like that interpretation of the First Vision was out of place for the time period.
LeGrand had written back, "Oh yeah, his grandpa had written in his journal the very day when Joseph told him of the First Vision. He went home and he wrote this in the mid 1830's that it was the Father and the Son in it. So I wrote back and said it would be nice to see the evidence on that.
He invited us up to his office to see that. Well, he gets out a little statement and reads us his grandpa's statement. Jerald is saying, "I'd like to see that in context." He's just got extracts on a piece of paper. Well, LeGrand got really huffy and puffy, "You do not question the Brethren." Here's two young idiot kids that got the temerity to come into his office and question his quote when he had typed it out.
"Well, could we see the context?" He begrudgingly walked us over to the genealogy library and he called for this microfilm for his grandpa and they put it on and we wheeled up to the spot. So we're looking at this page where the reference is at and Jerald says, "This sounds in the past tense, it doesn't sound like what you would write down the day, you know it sounds like Joseph's dead or something, the way this is worded. I'd like to roll it back and see the date and a little more of the context of this thing."
Well that ticked LeGrand Richards off. He had gone to all the trouble to take us all the way over to the genealogy library and got out the film, "What more do they want?" So these two get into an argument about rolling the film back about whether he can roll the film back. I was so humiliated that I was about to crawl under the floor. Everybody in the room is watching us because General Authorities just don't walk into the genealogy library. I mean it's like God walks in - hushed tones.
So there's Jerald arguing with an apostle whether to roll the film back. (audience laughter) So LeGrand whips this film off the microfilm reader and hands it to the lady and tells her, "If they come back they are not to see this. The are just trouble makers. I wash my hands of them. I've tried to help them." And he storms out and Jerald is right behind him, "Why can't I see the film?" (audience laughter) I'm trying to sneak out behind them.
The funny thing on that is that we did later get to see the microfilm. It was memoirs of his grandfather written here in Utah years after the event. Supposedly, the event had happened in the 1830's but he didn't write it down until many years later. So it wasn't an actual historical proof that Joseph in the 1830's was giving the interpretation of the First Vision, that was the Father and the Son.
When we moved back to Salt Lake we lived with Jerald's folks for a while so Jerald could find a job. Which was hard because when you put down you're born in Provo, Utah and your name is Tanner, the next question is, "Oh, are you related to N. Eldon Tanner?" "Yes." "Oh, what ward do you live in?" They always have a follow up questions. "Well, I'm not a Mormon." Well, it took him a while to find a job. (audience groans)
Jerald, when we were living in the ward with his folks at that time, we found out through Jerald's younger sister, who was active, that his name was still on the rolls. Even though before we had just married, he had asked the bishop to take his name off, he hadn't done it. We found out his name was still on so Jerald requested termination of his membership again. And at this time they finally did it. And it was for activity unbecoming of a member and teaching false doctrine.
When Jerald went into his excommunication trial they wanted him to plead guilty or not guilty to teaching false doctrine. Jerald said, "not guilty." And that threw them into this whole confusion. "Well, you're the one that asked to get your name off?" "Yes, but I won't plead guilty of preaching false doctrine." "But you don't believe like the Church does. Obviously, you're preaching the opposite."
"Yes, but it's not false doctrine." (audience laughter) And so they had a big quibble over whether they could proceed if he wouldn't plead guilty to preaching false doctrine. And they finally decided, "Well, it's close enough, obviously he's teaching things contrary to the Church." So he was excommunicated for apostasy.
I find that funny too, when Mormons always say, "Well, I heard you were excommunicated for apostasy?" "Yes, we asked for our names off and it was a real fine for Jerald to get his name off." It wasn't that we did something. They always think that you have to commit adultery or get drunk or do drugs or something awful. It's obvious from our letters, if you look in the back of our big "Mormonism Shadow or Reality" book we have the letters exchanged from our bishop that it was at our request.
I got one of my aunts to start studying the Book of Mormon and to comparing it to the Doctrine and Covenants. Too see that the Book of Mormon taught a whole different theology than Mormonism was putting out. So I'm getting her converted to the Book of Mormon. Now we still believed in the Book of Mormon at this point we had just given up all of Utah Mormonism.
We were still hanging onto the Book of Mormon so I am showing my aunt, "You see, the Book of Mormon doesn't teach Mormonism. Chuck all that other stuff out and just go with the Bible and Book of Mormon." So this gets my aunt asking all the wrong questions in Sunday School.
Finally, the bishop sends his wife down to talk to her and find out what's the matter. "Well, have you been reading apostate literature?" "No." What have you been doing?" "I've been reading the Book of Mormon. I've just been studying the scriptures." The bishop's wife said, "Every woman I know that has ever undertaken to study the scriptures on her own has always ended up confused. (audience laughter) And so she was instructed not to associate with me because obviously, I was part of the problem.
Another one of my aunts who had been inactive for many years was having marital problems and considering divorce. And she thought, "Well, maybe the problem is that we're just not active in the Church? Maybe the answer is that I need to get re-converted into the Church or something?" So she asked for the missionaries to come around and give her the lessons again.
So when they got to the part of telling her she needed to get back active in the Church because then she could go to the temple and you can get an eternal marriage and you would be sealed to your husband for all eternity. And she sat there contemplating this and she says, "Gee, that's kind of a sad ending to the story." (audience laughter) They ended up getting a divorce.
My father's parents were devout Mormons and went to the temple about every day of the week. One night we went over to visit my grandparents here in Salt Lake and Grandpa McGee wasn't home, so we ended up talking to my grandmother for a while. And we started talking to her about some of the problems we'd had with Mormonism and why we didn't believe it anymore.
The next day I get a call from my grandpa. He's all over me for sneaking behind his back to go and talk to my grandmother when she was alone to confuse her. Well, since she was on a stake mission I couldn't see that we had done anything that was terribly unreasonable. One would think a stake missionary would be able to discuss these things with you.
Well, I later learned from my father, the problems my grandma was having on her stake mission. She commented to some of the family that, "I've learned my part of the discussions, but the people I talk to haven't learned theirs." (audience laughter)
Well, my dad finally left Mormonism, but after he did, he had several strokes and ended up in a wheel chair and in a rest home. My grandma went to him and pontificated that the whole problem was that he had given up the priesthood and that's why he had that stroke and was in the wheel chair. Now this was despite the fact that his mother, my grandma, had a stroke, ended up in a convalescent home and died from a stroke. But hers was just part of life to teach you humility and strength and dependence upon God. And besides, when she died God need her for some reason. But my dad's stroke was different from that because of the priesthood.
In 1962 we gave up the Book of Mormon but continued on with Christianity. Which meant now we could find a church home. Before that we would visit a church, the pastor would call, find out we still believed in the Book of Mormon and it was sort of like 'nice to have you visit" and they were gone.
We started mimeographing things from the time we first got married, I think. Our big "Mormonism Shadow or Reality" book first started out as mimeographed book just called "Mormonism" in 1962 right after we gave up the Book of Mormon. In 1964 Jerald quit his machinist job and we set up "Modern Microfilm" hoping to be able to support research through the sale of photo reprints of early Mormon documents. That year we moved into our prestigious home on West Temple in what is affectionately referred to as the "Inner City."
The neighbor kids thought we were rich since we lived in the biggest home in the area, but not only that, we were not on welfare. This made it easy to keep up with the Joneses, especially since Jerald wasn't in prison as many of the other dads were. (audience laughter)
I remember reading an article in Dialogue some years ago about how many kids you had to have to stop feeling guilty and raised the question whether half a pew was enough. Well, we fell short of the goal and ended up with three.
One year a college student contacted us for some information to present to his Mormon girlfriend and she agreed to read some of it if he would be willing to meet with one of the General Authorities. So she was able to arrange a meeting with Spencer W. Kimball.
So this young man, college student goes in to talk to Spencer W. Kimball telling him some of the concerns he has with historical issues, which doesn't look like Mormons can meet its claims. Finally Kimball stopped him and told him, "Young man, if you really want to find the truth I will give you the three steps that never fail - 1. You must want to believe that it's true. (audience groans) 2. You must pray to know that it is true. 3. You must only read faith-promoting works. (audience groans) Needless to say, he didn't join the Church.
When I left the Church it caused a rift between my sister and me and a couple of years into our apostasy one day my sister decided to show me how magnanimous she was and how she had grown in her tolerance level and boldly announced to me that she could now admit in Relief Society that I was her sister. (audience laughter)
One night, when we were having a visit from a couple struggling with Mormonism. I gave very stern instructions to our grade school children that they were not to interrupt us by any count. I guess I over did it, because when we got through and the people left, I walked into the kitchen and found our oldest daughter, who was about eleven at the time, sitting in the kitchen patiently waiting, pale as a ghost, holding her broken finger. (audience groans) I felt like such a heel. I tried to explain, "I didn't mean emergencies." Such was life growing up in the Tanner home.
The kids soon learned that we didn't work on schedules and mom was still talking to people in the book room after five thirty, you better just find a bowl of cereal. (audience laughter) It was not unusual for them to come home from school or some evening activity and find me talking to reporters, film crews, troubled Mormons, polygamists, detectives, FBI, or an assorted numbers of paranoid schizophrenics. (audience laughter) I always wondered if one of my kids would become a psychiatrist because we had no many paranoid schizophrenics come to tell us they knew exactly what we were dealing with on Mormonism, and how it all fit into the big scheme. (audience laughter)
One guy came to our house one time and insisted Jerald and I come out and talk with him on the front lawn. Well, we get out on the front lawn and it's because he thought the whole house was bugged and he had this big conspiracy theory going.
One of the things we soon learned was that we had to watch our sense of humor in meeting with people. One day, two dour older women dressed in dark clothing came to visit us and they seemed morbidly serious and announced in very somber tones, "Whatever had motivated us to leave the Church?" Jerald feeling a little mischievous that day said, "The devil made me do it." (audience laughter) They paused a second and then went on with the conversation.
Well, we didn't think much about it and thought, well, they just don't have a sense of humor. But about a year later this man comes into the bookstore and said, "Can I talk with you privately?" I said, 'yes." And we go off to talk somewhere and he says, "My two sisters came to see you last year and I just wanted to verify the conversation because they told me that Jerald confessed to them that the reason you people do this is because the devil told you to do this. Is that really true?" (audience laughter) Well, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I pointed out to Jerald that maybe in the future we shouldn't make jokes about this.
One year when several people were passing out tracts in front of Temple Square and some of them had our address on the back, wouldn't you know it one of them is handed to one of my uncles as he's going into the temple. That evening I get this angry call from him, declaring, "You will never convince a real Mormon with your propaganda!" I replied very calmly, "Well, then you don't need to be upset." "I'm not upset! It just strengthens my testimony!" (audience laughter) "Well, then you should be glad that was handed to you." And he goes off even more.
And then he says, "Only Jack-Mormons would leave the Church over these kinds of things." I calmly replied, "Well, then you should be happy to be rid of them." Well, that just wound him up even tighter. (audience laughter) And every time he made an accusation and I countered with a soft answer he nearly went into apoplexy. Finally he said, "I bet all they do at that church you go to is bash the Mormons." I said, "Well, actually church starts at 10:45 a.m. and you're welcome to attend any time unannounced and see for yourself if we sit around bashing the Mormons." "I wouldn't set foot in that place if it was the last thing I was going to do!" This guy is going to have a coronary arrest. Anyway, he slammed the phone down at that point and that was the end of that one.
One day we got this box in the mail and on the outside it says, "I'm returning your books in the best condition possible. We opened the box and it's full of ashes. (audience laughter) It really was one of our books burned because we looked on the little pieces of paper. When you burn some of them, they still hang together and you can read the writing on them. And it was "Case Against Mormonism."
You usually get excommunicated in Mormonism for murder, adultery or apostasy. My friends used to kid me that I picked the dullest of the three. (audience laughter)
By the way, we have been accused of being excommunicated for adultery, drugs, alcohol and child abuse. One day I got a call from a man in Washington who'd been informed by a "knowledgeable" Mormon that we were excommunicated due to polygamy. Well I told Jerald, I wanted to know where she was because she sure wasn't helping with the housework! (audience laughter)
I have a book at home by a distant relative, "Isn't One Wife Enough?" I think Jerald decided, "Yes!" (audience laughter)
One Mormon triumphantly announced to friends of ours that we had been excommunicated for having wild sex orgies. Now, I don't know how Jerald had time for that, but I assure you I was never invited. (audience laughter)
One time the attic in our big two story old house where we used to have the printing press and bookstore and we ran so much stuff on our 100 year old electrical system that a fire started in the attic. We had the old mulch stuff that was smoldering. We finally figured out that the ceiling upstairs was exceptionally hot and we've got a big problem here.
We call the fire department. So the firemen are coming and going through our crawl space in our bathroom upstairs to get to the attic and get the smoldering insulation and they're carrying it out by the bucket loads down through the stairwell and down out the front door. We've got this parade of firemen coming through with smoldering insulation.
So the fire chief arrives and he's looking around the bookstore, "Oh, what's this? You write on Mormonism? Oh, my goodness. What do you think about this and that and the other?" I'm watching firemen run in and out and this guy is trying to discuss Mormonism. I'm having a hard time following this conversation.
Well, just then there's a knock at the front door and I go there and it's the plumber friend of ours who was going to come by and work on the plumbing in our bathroom. The firemen are running in and out this funny old plumber stands there saying, "Is this a bad time?" (audience laughter) "Only if your shut the water off." (audience laughter)
Many Mormons find it very hard to come visit our bookstore for the first time. They're always afraid the Church someway is going to spy on them and find out about it. One man used to come to the bookstore and he drove this really flashy red sports car. When he would come he would always park down the street and walk to the bookstore for fear someone would recognize his car because it was very distinctive. I knew the day that he parked his car in front of the house that he had left the Church. (audience laughter)
One couple asked me to sit in the meeting with their bishop. They wanted to tell him about their questions and concerns but they wanted someone there to back them up and when they got through recounting all of the problems and questions they had and asked the bishop, "Okay do you have any answers to this?"
The bishop said, "Let me explain to you how I became bishop. Growing up in the Church I was active as a kid. But then in my teen years I became in-active and then I went into the service and I wasn't active and drinking and smoking and all of that kind of stuff. I then got married to this little girl and I thought we probably ought to get back into the Church. So the bishop asked me if I would be scout leader. It thought, well, that's a good place to start so I was scout leader for a while and you know the next thing I know they are asking me if I wanted to be bishop. And so here I am before I became bishop I didn't have inclination to read about Mormonism or study up on it, and now that I'm the bishop I just don' have the time. So, I'm sorry, I don't even know what you're talking about. (audience laughter)
One of the other problems I face in life is going shopping at Christmas time. I often meet people at the malls that I know. The question is, "Do they want to be recognized?" Especially, if it's a man walking with his wife. It gets down to you sort of like being "the other woman" in the guy's life. So in one case you're worried, better to wait until they say hi first, otherwise I don't know them. (audience laughter)
One of the curious things I find is when people come into the bookstore they will ask me. "Are you one of the Tanners?" And when I say, "Yes." They ask me, "Which one?" (audience laughter) I don't think I look that much like Jerald. (audience laughter) But I always try to keep a straight face and, "I'm Sandra."
A few years ago a woman named Sandra Tanner wrote to the Deseret News to complain that I had ruined her good name. Now She had to explain she wasn't "that" Sandra Tanner. (audience laughter) Boy, she thinks she's got a problem? Just imagine what it's like when you are the real Sandra Tanner! Thank you. (audience laughter and applause)
Q: Sandra, have you ever actually been through the LDS temple?
A: I never went through an endowment ceremony, but I went to the dedication of the Los Angeles Temple. If you've been to a dedication of a temple, they do the Hosanna Shout with the handkerchief, hosanna, hosanna, hosanna. I had been told ahead of time to buy a hanky, but they don't tell you what for. So on cue we all stand up and do this hosanna, hosanna, hosanna stuff.
So then that Sunday back at the ward house, the bishop is walking by between Sunday School and Sacrament meeting. I grab the bishop. "I've got a question." "Yeah?" "What's all this deal about waving this hanky and saying hosanna?" And you would of thought I had shot him. He was just horrified and taken aback. "Sandra, we never talk about those things outside of the temple. You've got to learn!"
He walks away and I'm just left there standing thinking, "What's that all about?" I did baptisms for the dead in the Los Angeles Temple, but that's as far as I ever went with it all. My parents and grand parents were married in the temple so I was fully aware of the underwear but I didn't know what the ceremony was.
Q: Would you like to go through the temple? I'm taking a couple of Ex-Mormon friends through next year.
A: Oh yes. Well, I listened to the tape recording. That'll suffice. (audience laughter)
Q: You said that you finally gave up on the Book of Mormon. What led up to that?
A: In our research, different people we were meeting on our "Sundays on Mormonism" had challenged us that there was no historical foundation for the Book of Mormon. You couldn't find any reason to believe that Nephites ever existed and that it flew in the face of absolutely everything in my universe and everywhere. We started seriously looking at all of that.
I think Jerald had questions about the Book of Mormon earlier than I did. Jerald had perceived the depth of some of the problems before I could see what they were. One of the real influences on was M.T. Lamb's book "The Golden Bible" written at the turn of the century. He was a Protestant minister here in Utah and gave a series of lectures on what he saw to be problems with the Book of Mormon and that was so popular that it was made into a book.
The problem with his book is that he makes little witticisms and sarcastic comments along the way. When you're still believing in the Book of Mormon and you're trying to do a serious study, it's real hard to get past those because every time you hit one of those it's kind of like turning the knife in your heart. But overall the logic of the book just came crashing down on me on top of all the other stuff we'd already looked at.
That became the final blow when all the pieces just fell into place and I realized this can't be a historical document like it claims to be. It was a very traumatic time to set the Book of Mormon aside but that was the real final clincher on the deal.
But Jerald had been struggling for some time. He had struggled with all of the Bible quotes in the Book of Mormon. King James Bible quotes in the Book of Mormon? You know B.C. New Testament King James Bible quotes in the Book of Mormon? (audience laughter)
Q: On the subject of the authenticity of historical documents, I've always heard it said that in 1985 when the "Salamander Letter" became, you know when everybody was getting all agitated about it, instead you were expressing hesitation on it?
A: Yes, Jerald started to question Hofmann's document. We would have questioned sooner if we had realized the extent of how many he was claiming to have found, but it was all such a hushed, hushed deal. You didn't know how many he really was passing around out there. At first we were so excited when we heard about the Salamander letter that Martin Harris was supposed to have written and Jerald very much wanted it to be true. We both felt it would be a great thing in unraveling the whole story. But when we finally got text of the "Salamander Letter" Jerald has just been looking at E.D. Howe's "Mormonism Unvailed."
Statements by the early people that knew the Smiths and had also read, I believe a BYU Studies article, that had an account in there by "I believe it was Joseph Knight?" I think it was his remembrances and there were things in these two documents that Jerald said, "The Salamander Letter has to proceed from these two earlier documents. It can't be the other way around. Someone has to have put these two documents together to come up with this letter."
And I said, "Well, Jerald, maybe it's because these other guys all talked to Harris and it all sounds the same because Harris is behind all of these statements?" Jerald said, "No, obviously someone has read these two statements and they've put together this document." And he was absolutely sure. Which led to some real problems.
Now some of you here have not followed our long career enough to realize there was one issue of the newsletter where we had a split editorial. (audience chuckles) And the Mormons accused us at the time that we were hedging our bets, one argument for and one against and then that way we came out good either way. Man no! It was real, a split editorial, and I have finally forgiven Jerald for being right. (audience laughter)
Q: I want to express gratitude and appreciation for you and Jerald. (audience applause)
A. Thank you. (audience applause)
Q: What do you think after all of your observations, is more efficient or effective in digging out problems of Mormon history? Is it the group of Mormon apostates looking for things or it is the Church scholars? We talked earlier about a professor at BYU saying, "Oh, I've seen all of this." Is it people like that go on their own digging for it or is it because we are bringing it to them?
A: Okay on the question of digging up sources on Mormonism. I think that we have a combined effort of many people working on the same problems at the same time, but the Mormon Church guys trying to put a spin on it, and the people were trying to do real history, realizing that they had more to explain. Like the guys who got involved in the "New Mormon History" projects, realized it was getting more complicated to explain why you believe in Mormonism. And these were those of us on the outside saying, "Hello, can't you see the evidence?"
And I think that we act as course correction to the historians on the inside to make them more honest because they can't as easily put a spin on things because there is too much knowledge today. The invention of photography was the downfall of Mormon claims. Because Mormons saved everything and once everything could be photographed and passed around it created its own underground of document sharing that we were able to get some help from in our research. I believe it takes everyone. I don't think any of us have the only answer of how to view something and as we each put our ideas on the table it helps to form a bigger picture and from that we see a better outline.
I don't think we can leave it only to the "New Mormon History" crowd because they still are too defensive and too eager, I don't know if eager is the right word, still too tied into "the system" to put everything on the table. And so, Will Bagley does his book on the Mountain Meadow Massacre, he doesn't owe any favors to anyone. The Mormon Church immediately announces, "Oh well, we're going to do a better job because they have access to all the documents." And I'm thinking, "Yeah, how come the rest of us don't have access to all of those document?"
And it remains to be seen whether they can be truly honest after all these years on the Mountain Meadow Massacre. I'm sure they would be able to write a better history, I don't think that they will.
Q: Have you ever run into people in the Church especially within the hierarchy, that have indicated to you that they really don't believe this is all true but, "Please don't say anything about it."
A: Not very high up. I mean, I've had stake presidents and one man that was higher up that I can't say how he fit in the scheme of things that was struggling with the whole thing, but he chose to stay within the system, but I believe he knows it really isn't true, but he felt locked in due to his family situation.
I've talked to BYU professors and Institute of Religion teachers that didn't really buy into the system but were locked in because of retirement and family and it becomes very hard for a lot of these people.
I mean, what do you do at forty-five if you wake up one day, put the pieces together and don't believe the Church anymore? If you are working for the Church, you get a pretty heavy load to figure out what to do. If you know your wife is going to divorce you and take the kids, you're going to be bankrupt and your dad will disinherit you, these are hard issues for you to deal with.
Jerald and I, in that sense were fortunate; we were able to leave together at the start of our marriage. So we had support from one another when our families were telling us off and calling us to repentance and all of those things. I don't think I would have been strong enough in myself to have done that if it hadn't Jerald there to be an emotional support to stand against my family because even though many of them were not active, "You didn't leave the system." And so that became a real burden with all of them.
Q: There was a question on the Recovery from Mormonism Bulletin Board about whether or not the General Authorities, the higher ups in the Church really do believe because they have access to all of this information. What's your personal opinion on this?
A: So the question is, "Do I think any of the General Authorities might not believe?" I think that people like Hinckley, Monson and others know enough Church history that I am not going to surprise them with anything I tell them. Now how they deal with that, I'm not sure. I' m assuming that some how they have some way split off the spiritual truth of Mormonism with the doctrinal teachings from the meaning of the historical aspects being true and that they have been able to do that in their minds.
I mean, there is kind of a process that the Church is more true now than it ever was, that we're working out the kinks or something. (audience laughter) I just have a problem with that. For me it has to start true. I don't see how you get more true at the end of the road. I see a lot of that justification.
I have a lot of people who come in and talk to me that are working through that way in their rationalization and I'm assuming they are picking it up from higher ups that give them that kind of rationalization.
Thank you. (audience applause)
I have read the first part of Mrs. Tanner's Reflections. She's a very interesting speaker and keeps me attentive. I will continue to read it all. I accidently came across her name while looking up something entirely different that had nothing to do with religion on the computer. Funny how some things just drop into our laps. Anyway, I'm a convert which attended the church for about 2 years and dropped out many years ago. Yes, they regularly visit and I do have school age childen they still want to meet with. Unfortunately, I never speak with them and my husband is constantly making excuses...in which I tell him to just tell the truth: we differ in our beliefs, however, there are still alot of things we do agree with. Well, that right there keeps the door open. I am soul searching and have a commanded amount of faith in the Lord. Faith above all is what I truly believe in. Your speach is helping me heal and take away alot of guilt. May God bless you, Gail - 09/15/2009 - Gail
God bless and keep you. You are such a wonderful example of people that can think, and read. I read Granny Geers book, Mormonism, mama, and me. Her grandfather was John D. Lee. the one that wrote mormonism Unveiled. I found it in the library, and wasent allowed to see it. I pressed on them, and then they took me in a room with a table. Up in the glass case locked inside, was the book. A woman stayed by me, and would not let me copy, or write anything from it. I read a little here and there. a little over a year after, I was traveling and stopped in a gas station where a woman and her daughter ran the station. She was the Great grandaughter of John D Lee. She said she was searching for years to find anything he wrote, but to no avail. I told her about the book, and she ran as fast as she could to go see it. God bless, Lynne - 04/08/2008 - Jewish, christian, girl
After reading this artical, it has come to my atention that the auther of this spech and asosiation have not read the Book of Mormon. One of the many exampals I have to prove this is, in the book of mormon they had the plates of brass. The plates of brass is the majority of the old testament and therefore, people of that time were able, and have quoted from it. A nother tool is logic. Sinc Jesus was their he taut the people. Logicaly, he taut the came things word for word. If he were not able to he wouldn't be perfict. I could go on and on and on, but their is no point to it. In defence of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints, I belive that if god wanted some thing to happen, he has the ability to make it happen,for he is a perfect being with power beond human comprehention. I do not speak for the church, but I do not belive that it should be slamed by any one. - 12/02/2003 - anon
Reading this article is like reading the humanist reasons for not believing the bible, so I quess if what is said here proves mormonism wrong, then the humanist using the same methodology to prove the bible and christ were fakes, thanks for helping me decide that at least i am now an agnostic, but with your help I am quickly becoming an atheist. thanks. - 07/24/2003 - from willseyk@acorn
I can hardy wait to talk to Sandra when I go to Utah. I have been reading her articles for years and have received their newsletters. They've done a great job and I hope they live forever! - 04/18/2003 - Felix
Good effort, you are looking for freedom. - 01/19/2003- Ed
The Tanners have had a lot to do with my "awakening." - 01/19/2003 - Stringbean...
I believe it has required the greatest courage for the Tanners to carry on their pursuit of the truth in Utah, in the face of constant ridicule, hatred, and near-total snubbing from so much of society. That kind of moral courage, sacrificing so much for nothing more than truth, is indeed admirable. - 01/19/2003 - D. Perkins
I am also deeply indebted to Sandra and Jerald and have the greatest respect for them. I am an atheist but regularly donate to their Christian ministry because of all the good they do. I suggest all you lapsed tithe payers would feel better if you helped them get the word out as well. - 01/19/2003 - Linda Walker
It was my reading of "Mormonism, Shadow or Reality", that
convinced me the Mormon Church
was a cult. I had been duped as well as my ancestors. Today, I remain just as
angry toward the doctrine and leaders past and present as I did following the
completion of the book.
I too have visited the Tanner's with my family. Mr. Tanner is a very humble quiet man, who in spite of his age, spends time in the community, volunteering his time and efforts to feeding the poor.
God has a special place reserved for them! - 01/19/2003 - Paul of Idaho
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