Jerald and Sandra Tanner

From Academic Kids

Jerald and Sandra Tanner are long-time Utah residents and prominent critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS Church). They have been called "professional Anti-Mormons".

The Tanners were both raised in the LDS faith; their families both had longstanding ties to the Mormon community: Sandra is a great-great-granddaughter of Brigham Young, the second president of the Mormon Church.

As teenagers, before they met, Jerald and Sandra both began to examine the origins of Mormonism. Soon after their introduction, they jointly began researching Mormonism. As a result of these investigations (in their own words) "they left the LDS church and became Christians" (See Mormonism and Christianity for more on why the Tanners argue that Mormons aren't Christian).

The Tanners currently run the Utah Lighthouse Ministry, whose mission is to "document problems with the claims of Mormonism and compare LDS doctrines with Christianity." This includes reprinting original versions of early Mormon writings and scripture, and highlighting doctrinal changes, such as the rejection of Brigham Young's "Adam-God theory." The Tanners have jointly published more than forty books on the subject.



Documents that they have published include:

  • Mormonism: Shadow or Reality, a long, densely-written work full of reproductions of early Mormon documents accompanied by commentary. This has subsequently been revised and is the basis for their more readable later book, titled The Changing World of Mormonism (
  • The original version of the Book of Mormon, in which the Tanners highlight numerous changes in spelling, punctuation and wording.
  • Changing versions of the LDS Church's temple ceremony, which originally contained language and rituals that some people found lurid and offensive.

Reviews of the Tanners' works

The Tanners are not academics, and their work has been criticized as tendentious and polemical by both Mormon and non-Mormon scholars. Lawrence Foster, a non-Mormon historian who has researched and written about the church, says that until the Tanners "are prepared to abide by accepted standards of scholarly behavior and common courtesy, they can expect little sympathy from serious historians." He has also accused them of assuming "a holier-than-thou stance, refusing to be fair in applying the same debate standard of absolute rectitude which they demand of Mormonism to their own actions, writings, and beliefs. ... The Tanners seem to be playing a skillful shell game in which the premises for judgment are conveniently shifted so that the conclusion is always the same negative." [1] (

Despite these criticisms, Foster also says that some of the Tanners' "research and analysis ... would do credit to any professional historian" [2] ( and credits them for being "more than simply gadflies; in curious and often indirect ways, their work has also been a factor helping to stimulate serious Mormon historical writing." He also credits Jerald Tanner for his "fierce opposition to Mormon racism" and notes, "Some scholars have also, at least in private, been very pleased that the Tanners have made available hard-to-find printed works from early LDS history... even those scholars who are most critical of the Tanners and their methods have profited, at least indirectly, because the Tanners' allegations have spurred them to begin their own investigations into vital and still incompletely understood topics. ... Jerald and Sandra Tanner have functioned with regard to Mormonism in much the same way that Ralph Nader has functioned with regard to American business. ... the Tanners have prodded the church to begin, however haltingly and imperfectly to develop a more realistic sense of itself. I would imagine, for example, that much of the flowering of Mormon historical studies in the 1970s, which has helped to give at least some Mormons a richer and more vital knowledge of their own heritage, has been more than tangentially related to the desire of Latter Day Saint historians to prove the Tanners wrong by showing that a full and honest history of the Latter Day Saints can indeed be written. Much like the irritating grain of sand in the oyster, the result has been a pearl." [3] (

Many of the changes in the Book of Mormon that were highlighted by the Tanners have been defended by LDS apologists as trivial typographical alterations rather than substantive emendations. A few changes, however, consist of more than misplaced punctuation or standardization of spelling. Until recently, for example, the Book of Mormon referred frequently to righteous people as "white and delightsome," a phrase whose racial implications were interpreted by many Mormons as support for its practice of denying the priesthood to African-Americans. After the Priesthood ban was removed in 1978, the phrase "white and delightsome" was revised to "pure and delightsome." (This same change was made by Joseph Smith in early edited editions of the Book of Mormon, and appears in some pre-publication manuscripts, but had not been adopted for published version). Therefore, now A Brief Explanation About the Book of Mormon in the beginning of the Book of Mormon states: "Some minor errors in the text have been perpetuated in past editions of the Book of Mormon. This edition contains corrections that seem appropriate to bring the material into conformity with prepublication manuscripts and early editions edited by the Prophet Joseph Smith."

LDS members find the Tanners' decision to publish details of the temple ceremony offensive in that it exposes to public scrutiny practices that members consider sacred and private.

Tanners challenge extreme anti-Mormonism

On occasion, the Tanners have publicly challenged irresponsible critics of Mormonism.

The Tanners were among the first public critics of forger (and later, murderer), Mark Hofmann. Though Hoffman's "discoveries" often appeared to bolster the Tanner's own arguments, Jerald had, by early 1984 concluded there was significant doubt as to the Salamander Letter's authenticity, and "to the astonishment of a community of scholars, historians and students, published an attack on the so-called Salamander Letter.."[4] ( By late 1984, Jerald Tanner questioned the authenticity of most if not all of Hoffman's "discoveries" based in large part of their unproved provenance. The Tanners concur with Hofmann, however, in contending that the LDS church's apparent inability to discern the forged documents is evidence against church leadership being divinely inspired.

The Tanners have also debunked false claims circulated by a Christian evangelist filmmaker who claimed that LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley had engaged in sex with prostitutes and young boys. [5] ( [6] (

The Tanners have also criticized Ed Decker's The Godmakers (film and book) for its misrepresentation of the LDS Church.

Related articles

External links

Commentary on the Tanners

  • Lawrence Foster, "Career Apostates: Reflections on the Works of Jerald and Sandra Tanner," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 17 (Summer 1984).
  • Michael R. Ash, "The Impact of Mormon Critics on LDS Scholarship (," Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR).
  • "Faith Without Works Is Dead (," from "The Truth About 'The God Makers,'" Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR).

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