Obituary: Jerald Tanner

DKL is a familiar Bloggernacle presence. We solicited him to write the following obituary.

Jerald Tanner, that icon of anti-Mormonism who founded the Utah Lighthouse Ministry, died Sunday evening, October 1 at 7:20pm.

I’m well known for making fondue jokes about Jerald and his wife Sandra, but I don’t know a lot about Jerald Tanner. I went to the bookstore at their house in the early 90s, when I was still a student at BYU, and at that time I had the opportunity to speak with his wife at length (Sandra is a charming and intelligent woman). With the exception of his Salt Lake City Messenger newsletters, I’ve probably read as much of what he’s written as anyone. I own boxes of his books and publications.

Let me state up front that I have no sympathy for, or affiliation with, the Tanner’s work. This does not, however, entail that I must demonize them or mischaracterize their work. Many of the Brethren frequently speak of the war that the church fights against evil. Many among the Brethren seem to place the Tanners in the enemy camp that we are fighting, and they even have an oversight group to track activities of members who tread too far into the boundaries of heterodoxy.

It is customary to demonize anti-Mormons. And quite a lot has been said to attack the Tanners. There’s no need to go into all the mud that has been slung at them through the years. Suffice it to say, it is widely recognized, as Daniel Peterson noted, that “The Tanners, pound for pound, year after year, have been the most successful opponents of the church.” In my experience, anything positive said about the Tanners is viewed with suspicion, even among most “intellectuals.” This tendency to villianize people merely for being opponents of the church is one of the more cult-like tendencies of Mormonism.

Today, anti-Mormon literature tends to be dominated with salacious portrayals like “The Godmakers,” “The Godmakers II,” or other material that implies that Mormons worship the devil, that Mormons plan to take over the US government, or that Mormon leaders consort with prostitutes. But Jerald Tanner was neither a persecutor of Mormons nor a purveyor of salacious lies.

Jerald Tanner provided a good life for his family. As much as he opposed the teachings of our church, he certainly didn’t slander the church like other anti-Mormons. He opposed the church because he sought to lead its members to Christ. He was a missionary for the other side of Christianity — the side that we proselyte among. He did not try to lure away worthy LDS members with lies and misinformation, or seduce them with pornography, or attract them with promises of easy pleasure through personal immorality and hedonism, or discourage them from supporting their family, or tempt them with drugs or alcohol, or ensnare them with gambling, or encourage them to abuse their spouses and children. We should be ashamed to make the same mistake that the Catholic church makes when it condemns heretics, but refuses to discipline those, like Cardinal Bernard Law, whose actions lead to palpable evil and suffering.

Jerald Tanner was, at worst, a heretic, but in all likelihood he was not even that. In fact, he didn’t believe anything that most Americans do not already believe; viz., that the doctrines and traditions unique to Mormonism are not based on historical truth. He was just more informed and more aggressive in advancing his view. At this time when headlines shout bad news about people like Mark Foley and William Jefferson, and when a significant fraction of a major world religion seems devoted to a violent war against the west, it’s downright refreshing to know that there are rather decent people out there who merely seek to persuade us that we’re misguided.

To be sure, Jerald Tanner always saw what was worst about Mormonism, but his vision was limited by an integrity sorely lacking in many other anti-Mormons. Jerald’s career was replete with examples of his honesty. When the opportunity arose to use the Hofmann forgeries to undermine the LDS church, Jerald Tanner was the first to express doubts about their veracity at a time when even the foremost Mormon scholars believed them genuine. And Jerald Tanner argued as often and as vehemently as many Mormon apologists–he even wrote a book–against Ed Decker’s slanderous misrepresentation of Mormonmism in “The Godmakers” and “The Godmakers II” (like Decker’s accusation that Gordon Hinckley had a gay lover in the 60s and that Joseph Smith brought a piece of Alvin’s dead body with him to obtain the plates.)

Jerald Tanner’s primary tool was the truth that he believed — a truth that even many Mormon apologists acknowledge: The Book of Mormon has had thousands of changes made to it. Joseph Smith was a treasure digger. The portions of the Chandler papyri in the church’s possession do not contain the writings of Abraham. The church has excommunicated members for doing good scholarship. The Kinderhook plates are forgeries. What’s more, Jerald Tanner responded to all comers — so much so that the LDS church’s quasi-official response (written anonymously by D. Michael Quinn) charged that the Tanners argued too much with the opinions of famous members rather than the church’s official doctrines.

Perhaps I’m wrong, but I’d like to think that in the past decade our church’s leaders have shifted thematically away from the inward-looking critique of member faithfulness, the one that finds fault with members based on the minutiae of their historical or philosophical or scientific outlook. Not only would such a shift be an important step in Mormonism becoming accepted as a mainstream religion, but it would also open up room for us to take a more balanced view of our opponents.

At this time of loss, let us remember the Tanner family in our prayers.

Comments

  1. Thanks, DKL.

  2. Yes, nicely done. I have a lot of respect for the Tanners– they stuck up for their own beliefs, while living right there in SLC. And they were something of a voice of reason back in the middle of the Mark Hofmann mess– expressing doubts about the authenticity of some of what he produced when it would have been more convenient for them to accept the documents.
    I had not heard that Michael Quinn had written a response for the church to the Tanners. Is that online anywhere? And when was that?

  3. So, what’s the official waiting period before someone can do the temple work for him?

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    Paula, the response by an anonymous LDS historian may be read here. It was circuated in 1977. The Tanners wrote a response to it, dubbing the author “Dr. Clandestine,” which may be purchased from UTLM here.

    Although it is widely assumed that Mike Quinn is the author of the booklet, he has never confirmed or denied his authorship.

  5. Thanks for the link, Kevin.

    Mark, the official waiting period is 1 year, but you’re supposed to get the permission of the closest living relative if the person has been dead less than 95 years. Both rules are mostly honored in the breech, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him turn up in the IGI sometime soon.

  6. Kevin Barney says:

    Of course, Jerald was already baptized in mortality at one point. He and Sandra originally were members of the Church when they were very young.

  7. I once read an Article by the Tanners noting that Satanists in Utah kidnap children, baptise\drown them in blood filled bath tubs, telling them to ask jesus to come save them or to swear allegiance to Satan if he doesn’t. I have blocked out most of the details because I found it so disturbing. Since we are here esposuing the honest scholarship of Jerald Tanner, anyone know if that stuff really happens and why Mr. Tanner felt it related to Mormonism? I had nightmares about it.

  8. Kevin Barney says:

    mw*, please see Massimo Intovigne’s excellent paper on the satanism scare, which he read at the 1994 Mormon History Association meeting in Park City, here.

  9. Honesty and integrity should be praised wherever they are found…

    However, ‘anti-‘s are called ‘anti-‘s for a reason–they spend their efforts arguing why others are wrong, not why they are right.

    Listing changes made to the Book of Mormon text is like critcizing a talking dog for making grammatical mistakes. It avoids the real question: why and how is the dog talking in the first place? What alternate theory do the Tanners (or anyone) have to explain the creation of the Book of Mormon that matches all existing evidence?

    I’d also be curious to know if they spent as much time researching Bible historicity (and the many, many changes to that text over 2000 years) as with the Book of Mormon, what they would find, and why the standards of proof are different…

  10. Kevin, thank you.

  11. KMB,
    I think arguing that Biblical historocity is challenging just like Book of Mormon historocity is a slippery slope to atheism.

  12. DKL – Thanks for your thoughtful essay. The pattern of your words is exactly the kind of dialogue that I wish would occur among all parties who disagree, whether it be in the realm of religion, politics or any other subject. “Civility” is the word I would use and you have have captured that concept perfectly. Thank you.

  13. Rowan Atkinson who played the title character in the movie “Bean” and in the British TV series of the same name, had a cute skit about a daily “newcomer orientation” in the “next world” right after people die. He mentioned various religions including “The Mormons” if I remember correctly.

    I suppose those in for the biggest shock are atheists. But I often wonder how those who are strong adherents of various religions fair during those first few minutes or days after “crossing the veil”.

    I’d like to see a short movie or play explore the possibilities.

    Newcomer: “But how were we supposed to know what the ‘one true religion’ was?”

    Welcome Guide: “Remember those two clean cut young men in suits and black name-tags who knocked on your door one day?”

    Exploring the possible interactions and responses of various other churches’ leaders, tv evangelists, and strong anti-mormons might be interesting.

  14. Aaron Brown says:

    Great post. Well said.

    DKL said:
    “This tendency to villainize people merely for being opponents of the church is one of the more cult-like tendencies of Mormonism.”

    Here, here. While perhaps it is obligatory to ask you what you mean by “cult” here, I’ll refrain, assume I know what you’re talking about (because I do), and agree with you wholeheartedly.

    Thanks for saying something that needs to be said more often, and for saying it with the directness and bluntness with which it needs to be said.

    Aaron B

  15. I like that word “historocity.” It looks like a combination of “history” and “atrocity.” Or is it “ferocity.”

  16. Kevin Barney says:

    My friend Mike Ash gave a very nice presentation at the 2002 FAIR Conference entitled “The Impact of Mormon Critics on LDS Scholarship,” demonstrating the beneficial effects of various anti-Mormon critiques, including a section on the Tanners.

  17. It’s more like “should use spell check” -ocity. Thanks for the smile.

  18. Julie M. Smith says:

    “if the person has been dead less than 95 years”

    I thought it was if they had been BORN less than 95 years ago?

  19. Given his commitment to honesty, integrity, and his family, it would not surprise me if Brother Tanner enters the Celestial Kingdom before many active LDS.

    If he was baptized LDS, and either he or the Church terminated his membership, my understanding is that his temple work can only be done by First Presidency authorization. If asked for authorization, the First Presidency might defer such permission out of consideration and sensitivity to the feelings of most of his survivors (sort of like our policy against doing work for Holocaust victims). But once an appropriate period has transpired in that respect, I would hope the permission would promptly be given.

  20. a random John says:
  21. #18, Julie, I had thought so too. We have a little sign in our FHC that says it’s if they lived in the last 95 years. I think that there is a section in the handbook about it, so I’ll try to check. We have a copy of the relevent portion in the family history center. It makes a huge difference, and I was surprised to see the sign.

  22. I’m wrong. I remembered that I had a copy of Church Handbook of Instructions Book 2, section 9, Temple and Family History Work, 2006, lying around somewhere, and actually manage to find it. Here’s the quote, ” Members should be considerate of the feelings of close family members when submitting names of deceased relatives. For those deceased persons who were born within the last, 95 years, members should obtain the approval of the person’s closest living relative before temple work is performed. ” (So I need to find out who put the sign up and get it changed.)

  23. As usual, I disagree with DKL (and I guess I join a large crowd in doing so) but in this post everyone seems interested in singing praises to the man Tanner. I don’t feel the same way. In an issue of the Messenger & Advocate, the Tanners “reviewed” my article on the Book of Mormon as an expansion and in my view their treatment of my arguments was not merely sophomoric, but their reprisal of my arguments was thorougly a hatchet job. I couldn’t regard it as an honest engagement with the issues I discussed.

    I found Tanner’s simplistic reasoning and fundamentalist world-view to be not merely unlearned but unthoughtful. DKL acknowledges that Tanner had only one take on Mormonism — whatever the worst was that could be said or dug up. There was not merely a lack of balance, but a single-minded devotion to mucking up anything that could look bad for the church in any way. While I have grudging respect for Tanner’s attention to minutia and willingness to pilfer from Church archives, I found his vision of the larger picture to be both uncharitable and sorely lacking.

    By in large, however, Tanner did a great service for the Church by making us pay attention to a lot of details we would have overlooked and perhaps we would continue to make foolish assertions that would not stand up to sound sources and evidence. However, I hve no doubt that he will receive what he sent out as we all do.

  24. MikeInWeHo says:

    Never saw his photo before this. He looks remarkably soft-spoken. Kinda reminds me of Mr Rogers. “It’s a beautiful day in the apostate neighborhood….”

    I’m fascinated by people who reject Mormonism and then embrace fundamentalist/evangelical Christianity instead. It’s completely inexplicable to me. Leaving Church activity and becoming a mushy-liberal-universalist…now that I get!

  25. And now you’re faulting me for being positive Blake?

    Blake:

    …the Tanners “reviewed” my article on the Book of Mormon…and in my view their treatment of my arguments was not merely sophomoric, but their reprisal of my arguments was thoroughly a hatchet job.

    and

    I found Tanner’s simplistic reasoning and fundamentalist world-view to be not merely unlearned but unthoughtful.

    Be careful, Blake. I’ve heard the same thing said of FARMS.

    Blake, I agree with you that Jerald was a far better researcher than he was an historian or polemicist. I do not take this to be evidence that he was a bad person. Reasonable people can disagree about the truth claims of Mormonism.

    The hyper-focus that many church members have on how terrible it is to oppose the church is dysfunctional. At best, it’s a holdover from a time when opposing the church meant persecuting its members. At worst, it’s religious fanaticism.

  26. Bookslinger, Parley P. Pratt preached on that topic, as found in the second discourse in the Journal of Discourses:

    “Take another class of spirits-pious, well-disposed men; for instance,the honest Quaker, Presbyterian, or other sectarian, who, although honest,and well disposed, had not, while in the flesh, the privilege of the Priesthood and Gospel. They believed in Jesus Christ, but died in ignorance of his ordinances, and had not clear conceptions of his doctrine, and of the resurrection.They expected to go to that place called heaven, as soon as they were dead,and that their doom would then and there be fixed, without any further alteration or preparation. Suppose they should come back, with liberty to tell all they know? How much light could we get from them? They could only tell you about the nature of things in the world in which they live. And even that world you could not comprehend, by their description thereof, any more than you can describe colours to a man born blind, or sounds to those who have never heard.

    “What, then, could you get from them? Why, common chit chat, in which there would be a mixture of truth, and of error and mistakes, in mingled confusion: all their communications would betray the same want of clear and logical conceptions, and sound sense and philosophy, as would characterize the same class of spirits in the flesh.

    “Who, then, is prepared, among the spirits in the spirit world, to communicate the truth on the subject of salvation, to guide the people, to give advice, to confer consolation, to heal the sick, to administer joy, and gladness,and hope of immortality and eternal life, founded on manifest truth?

    “All that have been raised from the dead, and clothed with immortality, all that have ascended to yonder heavens, and been crowned as Kings and Priests, all such are our fellow servants, and of our brethren the Prophets, who have the testimony of Jesus; all such are waiting for the work of God among their posterity on the earth.”

  27. I know this won’t be popular, DKL, sorry, but, I didn’t like Mr. Tanner’s writings. Glad he’s outta here. The limited stuff I’ve read, well, gosh, i suppose it offended me! I thought it was a little too mean spirited. I would never be that mean against another’s religion, because I think when people practice any religion, it’s because it’s something precious to them in one way or another. I can’t see how attacking anyone’s personal belief system does anybody any good — no matter how idiotic they are for believing it ;-)

  28. Blake … He did not try to lure away worthy LDS members with lies and misinformation … is something I would disagree with from what I read of things he printed.

    Though the item I was given was easy to refute from its own pages. It struck me as false, but produced by someone so out of tune with reality that they didn’t understand the clear meaning of what they were citing (though if you read only the parts in ALL CAPS you could miss the context … provided of course).

    Maybe if I only knew more of the mysteries of fondue.

    Still, like all deaths, there is sadness in it, and we can hope for grace.

  29. meems, I can understand how you might find the argumentative tone of his writings mean spirited. But I believe that the comfort with which we are able to attack other people’s belief systems with words and ideas and facts is the single greatest thing about western culture. This environment of comfort is often referred to as “the marketplace of ideas,” and it ensures an absence of consensus which is a necessary condition for freedom. Remember, just a century ago, in most parts of the if you were on the wrong side of a certain disagreements, you were likely to find yourself on the wrong side of a pogrom or (worse) the law.

    Nor should we hold grudges, as Blake appears to, over bad book reviews. Nothing I read in Jerald’s books made the kind of caustic personal swipes that are all two frequent among other anti-mormons and even many Mormon apologists.

  30. DKL: Ohhh come on. I have no grudge against Tanner — I don’t even care what he thought or said. I just disagree with your praise. His approach was not honest — it omitted everything and anything that would add perspective. I think that is poor form so I I beleive that his work was both uncharitable and slanted. You can call that trying to bring people to Christ if you wish …

  31. Mike Parker says:

    Jerald Tanner…opposed the church because he sought to lead its members to Christ. He was a missionary for the other side of Christianity — the side that we proselyte among.

    The Tanners did not start off their anti-LDS activities for this reason, though. They spent the first twenty years as “Modern Microfilm” before converting to evangelical Christianity and changing the name of their outfit to “Utah Lighthouse Ministry” in the early 1980s.

    I know it’s bad form to speak ill of the dead, but I can’t find it my heart to acknowledge any honesty in the Tanners’ work. They know their sources and don’t make the egregious errors other anti-Mormons do, but they are masters at removing material from its historical context. Their abuse of ellipses when quoting LDS leaders is legendary, and justifiably so.

  32. Mark Butler says:

    There is no question that the Tanners were and are a better class of anti-Mormon than what immediately preceded them. But their work consists primarily of a smear campaign based on attacking the history of the Church in a relatively juvenile and inflammatory manner.

    A proper outreach ministry should focus on the weaknesses with the doctrines in another denomination. A sectarian might well be able to construct reasonable arguments that the doctrines of a church (as understood by many) lead people away from Christ or into un-Christlike behavior. Or they might argue that our doctrines are incompatible with the scriptures.

    But the oddities of the history of a church are almost irrelevant. Can we go around criticizing the Catholic church for the doctrinal and behavioral errata of centuries without addressing the historical, doctrinal, and philosophical context that lead to such strange things? And if we did would we be the least bit effective?

    Suppose I said that once upon a time the Catholic church (being the only one there was and being a practical unity with the secular world) carried the mantle of the great and abominable? So what? The question is what are they teaching today? Are they leading men toward Christ? or away from Him? What are the weaknessess in their understanding?

    Should we go out and establish an anti-Catholic or anti-Jewish or anti-Islamist or anti-Protestant ministry in the same manner as the Tanners (and many other Protestants) operate anti-Mormon and anti-(fill in the blank) ministries?

    There is a scripture that says “contend against no church save it be the church of the devil”. Now unless the Tanners and others like them believe that the primary effect of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to lead its adherents carefully down to hell, they are violating that principle.

    I have recently made a partial argument to the effect that much of secular academia currently bears the mantle of the great and abominable church more than any other organization – explicitly propagating atheism, permissivism, moral relativism, radical skepticism, and a host of other poisonous doctrines based only on speculative philosophies of men.

    And yet many conservative Christians choose to focuse most of their efforts making direct attacks on irrelvant aspects of an organization that does precisely the opposite? Is that the behavior of a friend or an enemy?

    I am a friend to any organization to the degree that the teach principles that are noble, uplifting, and compatible with the gospel of Jesus Christ. What good does a life long ministry of attacking those one should consider one’s friends do?

  33. Kevin Barney:
    Again I want to say thanks for the excellent article on the Satan Scare.

    As a threadjack, I guess, does anyone know why so many people who are hypnotized or treated with therapy report sexual abuse or “satanisic” ritual? Is it just the power of suggestion wielded by the interviewer or thrapist?

    For that matter, why do confessions of the same seem to “cure” patients of MPD?

  34. I agree with Mark Butler on the Tanners. I have visited their store/ministry. My impression of a lifetime of casual observance is that they usually would find old quotes from long gone leaders that sound odd to our modern ears and republish them as what Mormon doctrine really is.

    A real outreach would involve showing why the traditional christian trinity teaching is correct and true not that BY believed in the Bear Lake monster, that GQ Cannon held racial views common to his time, and that there is a 2nd Annointing.

    I am oversimplyfying of course cause this is a blog but this is my impression.

  35. Mark Butler says:

    The Great Apostasy is as state of the art as it ever was, it is just our understanding of the phenomenon has improved. The members of the Church as a whole are about as likely to drift into apostasy as the members of any other church, and would indeed apostasize in less than a generation (all formalities to the contrary) were it not for the oft repeated calls unto repentance by those whom the Lord has appointed unto that ministry.

  36. Mike Parker says:

    I challenge you to identify instances of this. Ed Decker and others are guilty of this, but it is doubtful that the Tanners could have had a beneficial effect on apologetics if they were playing the same games as everyone else.

    DKL, I’m not eggagerating when I say the Tanners’ abuse of ellipses is legendary. They are well-known for being masters of misrepresentation by partial quotation. Challenge accepted.

    Here are just a few of the many articles that review the Tanners’ publications and give examples of selective quotation:
    Matt Roper, review of Mormonism–Shadow or Reality?, 1992 (PDF link).Matt Roper, “Comments on the Book of Mormon Witnesses: A Response to Jerald and Sandra Tanner,” 1993 (HTML link).Matt Roper, review of “Answering Mormon Scholars: A Response to Criticism Raised by Mormon Defenders,” 1996 (PDF link).Dan Bachman, review of Mormonism–Shadow or Reality?, 2000 (HTML link).
    I recommend you read all of each article, but you can also scan through and easily find sections that deal with quotations. Bachman’s review addresses it almost exclusively.

  37. Blake: His approach was not honest — it omitted everything and anything that would add perspective. I think that is poor form so I beleive that his work was both uncharitable and slanted

    I state plainly in my obit that his work was uncharitable and slanted when I say that he always saw the worst. But it’s wrong of you to say that he’s dishonest based on the fact that he omitted the kind of perspective that apologists demand. If we suppose for a moment what you describe is indeed a brand of dishonesty, then it is one that is several orders of magnitude less severe than the kind that other anti-Mormons like Ed Decker engage in.

    Mike Parker: [The Tanner’s] abuse of ellipses when quoting LDS leaders is legendary, and justifiably so.

    I challenge you to identify instances of this. Ed Decker and others are guilty of this, but it is doubtful that the Tanners could have had a beneficial effect on apologetics if they were playing the same games as everyone else.

    Much has been said about attacking other people’s religion. I guess that’s safe for Mormons to harp on this sort of thing now that it’s no longer in vogue to understand Nephi’s church of Satan as the Catholic church or even all non-Mormon churches, now that the Temple Ceremony has been cleansed of its caricature of Protestantism, now that “The Great Apostasy” is no longer considered state of the art doctrine.

    Is there no room in Mormonism for a charitable assessment of Jerald Tanner?

    I think that there’s a forest-for-the-trees issue here. Assume for a moment that everything negative that has been said here about Jerald Tanner is true. What kind of person would that make Jerald Tanner? Honestly, if that’s the worst that Jerald Tanner has done, then he sounds like a pretty decent fellow to me. In fact, I’d say you’re picking at motes. Go find some real bad guys to demonize.

  38. Mike Parker says:

    (Grrrr…. I typed a lengthy reply, hit “add my comment” and it disappeared.)

    DKL:

    I challenge you to identify instances of this. Ed Decker and others are guilty of this, but it is doubtful that the Tanners could have had a beneficial effect on apologetics if they were playing the same games as everyone else.

    I gladly accept that challenge, mainly because it’s so easy. The number of reviews of the Tanners’ work that have pointed out their misuse of statements by selective quotation are legion. Here are three:
    Dan Bachman, review of Mormonism–Shadow or Reality? (HTML link).
    Matt Roper, review of Mormonism–Shadow or Reality? (PDF link).
    Matt Roper, comments on the Tanners’ abuse of the Book of Mormon witnesses (HTML link)
    I recommend you read each article in its entirety, but you can easily scan through each one and find places where the reviewers show the Tanners’ selective quote alongside the full quote. Bachman’s review deals almost exclusively with the issue.

    There are more where these came from. These are just the ones I could easily find by Googling from work.

  39. Missionary work is inherently negative. You’re trying to convince people that what you have is normatively better than what they have. There is a difference between putting others down and praising your own view, but it still comes down to someone being right and someone being wrong.

  40. Mike Parker says:

    To BCC admins: I typed two replies to DKL’s #35, but they both disappeared. I think it might be because I included links, and the blog software tagged the message as spam.

  41. Benevolent Admin says:

    Mike, your comments did indeed get automatically tagged as spam. Thanks for the heads-up.

  42. Mike Parker, I invite readers of this thread to read the sources you site. They standard apologetic fair (no pun intended). Aside from a few decent points about context, each one fails to find any blatant misuse of quotations. It should raise eyebrows for how far they have to stretch to argue that a quote is “misused.”

    In fact, the apologists misuse as many quotes of the Tanner’s as they accuse the Tanner’s of doing.

    A friend of mine saw an anti pamphlet on his mission (not by the Tanners) that quoted Parley Pratt as saying something to the effect of, “Joseph Smith was posessesed…” in his autobiography. The actual quote was to the effect of “Joseph Smith was possessed of a loving spirit.” Now that’s misuse of a quote.

  43. Mike Parker says:

    DKL #42:

    I’m amazed that you can give the Tanners a pass after reading the sources I gave you.

    I certainly don’t know how you can read Bachman’s examination of the Stoddard affair and come away saying the Tanners didn’t blatantly misuse that quotation. They gave no context or background, and hid from their readers all evidence contradicting their charge that Joseph Smith was violent and unchristian.

    I suppose that truth must be in the eye of the beholder.

  44. DKLL I read the sources and agree with Mark — you’re offf my friend. Further, if you want to see a dishonest and deceptive use of elipses, just look at how they treated my expansion article. I’m really familiar with that one — and yes, I have a pretty good idea what they cut out and out. I wonder why you are so much more charitable to those hell-bent on destroying the kingdom than those poor beknighted apologists that you’re so fond of bad-mouthing?

  45. that last line should read :

    “something that members of his family would feel comfortable reading. That’s the Christian thing to do, Blake.”

  46. Like a communist, you suppose that anything is permissible when defending the kingdom, and then you argue for moral high-ground by holding your opponents up to an impossibly high standard.

    DKL, you’re not a mind-reader.

  47. Mike Parker: I’m amazed that you can give the Tanners a pass after reading the sources I gave you.

    It’s no different than what apologists do. In fact, many apologists do a lot worse.

    There’s a double standard at work here. Like a communist, you suppose that anything is permissible when defending the kingdom, and then you argue for moral high-ground by holding your opponents up to an impossibly high standard.

    Blake: I wonder why you are so much more charitable to those hell-bent on destroying the kingdom than those poor beknighted apologists that you’re so fond of bad-mouthing?

    First of all, “hell-bent on destroying the kingdom” is loaded language. To barrow a phrase from Mike Parker, it gives “no context or background, and [hides] from [your] readers all evidence contradicting [your] charge.” You imply that Jerald Tanner said to himself, “I’m going to set out to destroy God’s Kingdom.” Thus, you’re trying to characterize your disagreement with him in terms that entail that you’re somehow intrinsically correct and he’s somehow intrinsically wrong. That’s not an honest way to approach an argument. Strictly speaking, there’s no way to destroy God’s kingdom — not even apostasy. We’re talking about the vestiges of God’s Kingdom on earth. And there’s room for disagreement about what constitutes this.

    Second of all, wait until I’m asked to write an obituary for an apologist, and then we can talk about how charitable I am toward apologists. My goal here was to write something balanced and charitable, something that members of his would feel comfortable reading. That’s the Christian thing to do, Blake.

  48. Ben — no, but I think he is a phrenologist and tarot reader. Close enough?

  49. Brad Kramer says:

    DKL,
    I commend your spirit of toleration. It is entirely appropriate for an obit. I also agree with Blake’s assessment of the shoddiness of the Tanners’ scholarship. I also don’t think that the fact that they aren’t making outrageous, Deckeresque claims about the Church means that they are less potent detractors than those who accuse LDS of satanic child sacrifice and the likes. Who does more damage to George Bush, Steve Jones and Cindy Sheehan or Andy Card and Bob Woodward? And while acknowledging the inability of typescript to capture sarcasm, your “like a communist” comment smacks of an irony that would make the most strident propagandist blush.

    “Like a murderous, jew-hating nazi, GWB favors dramatic increases in national defense spending.”

    “Like the Rosenbergs, John Kerry opposed an American war against communism.”

    “Like an America-hating, terrorist-sympathizing traitor, Michael Moore prefers guilt-by-association and ad hominem attacks against the President and his supporters over civil, substantive debate.”

    I definitely agree with what you said after the “like a communist” bit about Mormons holding double standards for critics and apologists, and I don’t think that “attacking God’s kingdom” itself is a sufficent reason to condemn someone if that person does not believe that what they are doing is, in fact, attacking God’s kingdom.

    On balance, nice work. Here’s hoping that you’re around for BCC to ask to write my obit after I become (in)famous.

  50. Brad, I thought the “like a communist” comment was great! Would that people actually did consider it to be an insult the way that you describe. The problem with communism nowadays is that people don’t take it to be a serious enough insult. When I was in high school, the cold war was in full swing, and anyone we didn’t like, we’d derisively call a communist, like, “I have Mr. Douglass for English. He’s such a communist.” Nowadays, nobody says that and they make clothing that has the USSR flag on it and Vodka ads that make jokes about communism.

    As far as writing your obituary, I appreciate the sentiment. The problem is that I don’t sleep, I eat terribly, and get all of my energy from caffeine (I may die when I’m 40, but I’ve already lived more waking hours than most people twice my age!). Even with the Word of Wisdom, I’m not what you’d consider a good candidate for longevity. But perhaps you could write mine. Just beware: comments would probably have to be closed on it, like on Jim F’s “I like DKL” thread.

  51. Brad Kramer says:

    Funny, when I first saw the “I like DKL” thread, I thought it was your obit.

  52. DKL,
    You’re entertaining me, mate. Keep it up. It pleases me.

    (There is no sarcasm in this comment.)

  53. Ben: DKL, you’re not a mind-reader.

    I know exactly why you think this.

  54. I’m a little surprised that no one has commented on a very negative effect of the Tanners’ ministry (I make no claim to see into their hearts or judge their souls, and I agree that there are people who have had a much worse influence in the world and the church): they have made it exceedingly difficult to have thoughtful discussions about the church or its history. By constantly shouting and decontextualizing the writings of faithful seekers within the Church, they have made even careful reasonable attempts to understand Mormonism (such as Blake’s excellent essay in Dialogue) dangerous and much more controversial than they needed to be. How nice, even crucial, to be able to discuss folk magic, the (con)text of the Book of Mormon, without having an obsessed and prolific ex-Mormon screaming (ALL CAPS are the visual equivalent in my book) that these topics MUST DESTROY YOUR FAITH IN THE LDS CHURCH!!! The Tanners have stolen that space for dialogue from our community.

    To me their ministry has been like having someone recording your private conversations and then publishing them to your neighbors as a way to show your neighbors that you are evil deceivers. Hard to have meaningful, challenging conversations in that setting.
    Incidentally, I would note that there are people who are similarly problematic deep in the apologists’ camp, and I do not condone their behaviors.

    In terms of tolerance and kindness, themes for this eulogy and its discussion, I imagine to myself a christianized Jew living in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, a center of American Orthodox Judaism, endlessly attacking Jewish faith claims and tradition and amplifying and reinterpreting every internal attempt to understand the complexities of the tradition (MOSES NEVER WROTE THE BIBLE!!!!! THE JEWS CRUCIFIED THE MESSIAH!!!!). I suspect such a figure would not be eulogized in an altogether positive light, even by secular outsiders who do not embrace Orthodox Judaism.

    DKL has a point that at some level there have been Mormons, even many Mormons, who have manifested behaviors structurally similar to that of the Tanners. In that sense, the Tanners have been a message to us to avoid mimicking their behaviors.

    I also agree with DKL that sorrow and loss are sorrow and loss, and if our enemy grieves we should be ready to lessen their grief and pray for them. Schadenfreude is a spiritual blight, even when the sufferer has caused us pain and loss.

  55. I agree with smb — we can grieve with the sorrow of those who mourn Tanner’s passing and pray for their comfort and a measure of the spirit to assuage their pain. I have no doubt that in many repsects Tanner was a good father and a good husband. For those qualities we can be greatful and join in mourning with their loss.

  56. I think your last sentence says it all, David. A man has died; for now, it’s important to allow his family to mourn.

  57. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 55
    “The Tanners have stolen that space for dialogue from our community.”

    Please. The very existence of BCC and the other blogs proves that untrue. These “obsessed and prolific” critics force thoughtful LDS to look at the origins of their faith more honestly. This can only strengthen the various branches of the Restoration in the long run.

  58. re: 58, you’re welcome.
    My point is that these critics make it difficult to look at origins of faith more honestly. these blogs, to the extent that they partake of thoughtful discussion, are the kind of dialogue that I believe is impaired by the Tanners. There are of course segments of blogs that add little to the discussion, and impairment in their dialogue wouldn’t change the content much. However, many participants in blogs are circumspect about the content of their participation precisely because there are individuals ready to amplify and miscontextualize their writings.

    also, beware the blinders of blogdom. much important dialogue about mormonism does not take place on these blogs, and the implication that a single mixed outlet like the blogdom represents a thriving and sufficient dialogue for a faith community is simply incorrect.

  59. Mike Parker says:

    DKL:

    There’s a double standard at work here. Like a communist, you suppose that anything is permissible when defending the kingdom, and then you argue for moral high-ground by holding your opponents up to an impossibly high standard.

    I find it simply incredible that you can make comments like this about me, a person whom you do not know and whose attitudes, beliefs, and actions you presume to denigrate without evidence. How thoroughly vile and insulting.

    Rest assured, I do not believe “anything is permissible,” nor do I hold critics of the Church to an “impossibly high standard.” I expect honesty and candor from historians — LDS and non-LDS — and have been critical of both sides.

    The Tanners are nice people, I’m quite sure, but their documentary style is polemical, not historical. It’s tragic that you are so willing to defend them, when the body of their work is so indefensible.

    For shame.

  60. Mike Parker says:

    DKL: Do you usually brush aside evidence and analysis with snide caricatures, broad generalizations, and juvenile witticisms, or have I just caught you on a bad day?

  61. Mike Parker: The Tanners are nice people, I’m quite sure, but their documentary style is polemical, not historical.

    Again, the biggest sin anyone has been able to credibly lay at the feet of the Tanner’s is that they’re polemical? I think that only a communist would fault them for that, given the predominance of polemical arguments in the works of Mormon apologists.

    Mike Parker: It’s tragic that you are so willing to defend them, when the body of their work is so indefensible.

    Wake up: the articles you site don’t offer any better critique of the Tanners than I do of Blake in my previous comment. Is Blake’s work indefensible because he does not approach such issues even-handedly and presents ideas bereft of context to sway an argument? Of course not! I am just nitpicking in order to make a point–the same thing that the sources you site are doing.

    Besides, it’s not just me. There are prominent names in Mormon studies who claim that the Tanner’s work has had a beneficial impact on the quality of apologetics by forcing them to sharpen their pencils and think longer and harder.

    Mike Parker: I find it simply incredible that you can make comments like this about me, a person whom you do not know and whose attitudes, beliefs, and actions you presume to denigrate without evidence. How thoroughly vile and insulting.

    Well I certainly hope nobody asks you to write my obituary!

  62. DKL, Mike, take it outside.

  63. Laura Ford says:

    I cannot believe that “meems” would actually be so heartless to say “Glad he’s outa here”. Feel free to disagree with the Tanners views and beliefs, but to actually be happy that someone has died is absolutely uncalled for.

    The Tanners have always been dedicated to getting information out there and available to people so they could make THEIR OWN CHOICES and decide for themselves what to believe. They didn’t shove religion down people’s throats. They asked questions and sought out answers. The mere fact that they get anyone thinking about what they believe in and what their church believes in is admirable. No one says you have to agree with them. But they have the right to say what they wanted to, just the same as everyone else. If their work offended you, fine. It made a difference — right or wrong — to many people.

    The Tanners INVITED dialog — they didn’t impair it! There is enough room in the world for many opinions. The fact that their work stands out and is known by more people than others speaks volumes. It isn’t out there because it blocked out other people’s views…it earned it’s place. If you have something to say against it, feel free. If you back it up and put as much work, thought and belief behind it as the Tanners, your theories and beliefs will get out there too.

    I hope that EVERYONE remembers that you can disagree with Jerald Tanner’s work, beliefs, methods, etc… but unless you actually knew him as a person, you really don’t have the right to celebrate his death or condemn him as a person. I DID know him. He would have welcomed a discussion from ANY of you, no matter what your view. He would have listened to you and genuinely thought about what you had to say. He would wish you well. He would NEVER have condemned you for your beliefs or views. He would never have celebrated the death of someone opposed to his work or beliefs. He welcomed open discussion of religion and only wished you to have information to make your OWN decision now matter what it was.

    Jerald Tanner WAS extremely kind, soft-spoken, hilariously funny and very intelligent. He was a genuinely good and honest person.

  64. Laura Ford, thank you. It’s nice to hear from someone who knew Jerald Tanner, and who can reinforce the things I said in this article.

    Mike, the funny thing about your question is that brushes aside evidence and analysis with snide caricatures and makes a broad generalizations.

    Steve, I think it’s important to engage “defenders of the faith” here. It’s illustrative.

  65. Mike Parker says:

    I don’t know Jerald and Sandra Tanner. I’m sure they’re wonderful people, good neighbors, loving parents, and upstanding citizens. They have also misconstrued the facts on many occasions to suit their purposes. One can be sincere and still be wrong.

    Here’s another example of the Tanners’ disengenuous use of ellipses.

    In UTLM.org “First Vision Article”, the Tanners attempt to demonstrate that “Early LDS leaders usually thought of the [First] vision as one of angels, not God”:

    Speaking on Dec. 19, 1869, Orson Pratt taught: “By and by an obscure individual, a young man, rose up, and, in the midst of all Christendom, proclaimed the startling news that God had sent an angel to him;… This young man, some four years afterwards, was visited again by a holy angel.” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, pp. 65-66)

    So what’s in the ellipses? The excised bit is in italics, with significant portions that affect the Tanners’ argument in bold.

    By and by an obscure individual, a young man, rose up, and, in the midst of all Christendom, proclaimed the startling news that God had sent an angel to him; that through his faith, prayers, and sincere repentance he had beheld a supernatural vision, that he had seen a pillar of fire descend from Heaven, and saw two glorious personages clothed upon with this pillar of fire, whose countenance shone like the sun at noonday; that he heard one of these personages say, pointing to the other, “This is my beloved Son, hear ye him.” This occurred before this young man was fifteen years of age; and it was a startling announcement to make in the midst of a generation so completely given up to the traditions of their fathers; and when this was proclaimed by this young, unlettered boy to the priests and the religious societies in the State of New York, they laughed him to scorn. “What!” said they, “visions and revelations in our day! God speaking to men in our day!” They looked upon him as deluded; they pointed the finger of scorn at him and warned their congregations against him. “The canon of Scripture is closed up; no more communications are to be expected from Heaven. The ancients saw heavenly visions and personages; they heard the voice of the Lord; they were inspired by the Holy Ghost to receive revelations, but behold no such thing is to be given to man in our day, neither has there been for many generations past.” This was the style of the remarks made by religionists forty years ago.
    This young man, some four years afterwards, was visited again by a holy angel.

    I cannot understand how anyone reading this blog can’t see the shell game the Tanners are playing here, regardless of how much you may personally like them.

  66. You’re the one guilty of subterfuge here, Mike, in 3 regards. First, you’re taking the Tanner’s out of context. Second, you’re implicitly offering your own mis-reading Orson Pratt’s statement by urging an interpretation that is quite obviously incorrect. Third, your conclusion is preposterous on its face.

    1. Starting with the context: By misrepresenting the context, you make it appear that the elided material weakens the case that the Tanners are making, when it does not.

    You claim that they aim to show that “Early LDS leaders usually thought of the [First] vision as one of angels, not God.” This misuses the Tanner’s quote in four ways:

    a. The statement is basically an aside that the Tanner’s place at the conclusion of scores of quotes that range from 1820 to 1888. By framing this quote using an aside, you avoid using text with which the Tanner’s introduced the range of quotes, which expressly defines the purpose of presenting the entire range: Specifically, “The first vision story and the LDS doctrine of God have continually evolved. The LDS Church’s current position was not the position of the church in 1830 or 1835.”

    b. As noted in the preceding point, the aim of showing the range of quotes from 1820 to 1880 is to show that the understanding of the first vision evolved. Obviously, the early quotes differ more significantly from our current understanding than the later quotes–hence, the evolution. You quote a later quote, highlighting the material that can be interpreted as similar to our own frame of reference. But with or without the elided material, Orson Pratt is still referring to the First Vision in ways that are foreign to the way that we refer to it nowadays.

    c. You omit the sentence immediately following your citation, which qualifies what they intend to be significant about the reference to angels rather than to God. Specifically, “They did not appeal to the first vision to establish their teaching that God has a body.” Even allowing your interpretation, nothing in the elided material entails God having a body any more than Isaiah 6, which depicts God as a monarch.

    2. On misusing the Orson Pratt quote: “God speaking to men” needn’t mean anything more than the context implies; viz.., “visions and revelations in our day!” Pratt offers a paraphrase of the refutation offered against Joseph, and it is an argument against revelation as such; i.e., the question in dispute is whether the heavens are open, not whether God talks directly to man.

    3. About your conclusion that the Tanner’s are playing a shell game: One cannot seriously argue that the church’s understanding of the First Vision has not undergone change over time. Many Mormon’s aren’t aware of this change. Sandra Tanner compiles a list of quotes designed to illustrate this in a nutshell for a non-historian reader. Worst case scenario: You found a instances of faulty argument (out of scores). But there’s really no denying the conclusion that the other arguments (and any reasonable analysis of the literature) support. Specifically, that the Tanner’s are right: Early church leaders understood the first vision differently from the way that we customarily understand it as 21st century Mormons, and they referred to the First Vision using terms that are confusing to many 21st century Mormons. You can’t pretend that a bum quote magically aligns all the different views of the First Vision.

    I can see why anybody who only read your comment above would be duped into thinking that this is a shell game. But I propose that the reason why you can’t understand why anyone would think otherwise, is because you decided what you’d find beforehand, and you merely dug through enough material to yield an example that you could distort badly enough to make a rhetorical point. Isn’t this exactly what you are accusing the Tanner’s of doing?

    It’s been mentioned that the Tanner’s used a lot of CAPS and were therefore “shouting.” This is an anachronistic reading. A great deal of their early work was typewritten, so that unless you owned a very expensive typewriter, there was no easy way to bold or italicize text. The Tanners used CAPS instead of bold and italics. Once publishing methods more advanced than the simple typewriters became more affordable, the CAPS went away. So there was no shouting on their part–not any more than Mike was shouting with his usage of bold. The CAPS were just an attempt to overcome the shortcomings of the medium.

  67. Mike Parker says:

    DKL, your argument is pleonastic but unpersuasive. In this specific example, the Tanners were attempting to show their readers that Orson Pratt taught that it was just an angel who appeared in the First Vision, not the Father and Son. They cut out a significant amount of his quote and distorted what he said. It’s that simple. Whether the early Saints had a different concept of the First Vision than we now do isn’t the point here — they misrepresented Orson Pratt to support a fallacious argument.

    For what it’s worth, I didn’t have to look hard for that one. The Tanners use this technique quite frequently. For example, The Changing World of Mormonism is almost a thesis on distorting quotations.

  68. Mike Parker: the Tanners were attempting to show their readers that Orson Pratt taught that it was just an angel who appeared in the First Vision, not the Father and Son.

    Here you go again. First of all, this is an out-and-out falsehood. It implies that their argument stands or falls on the Orson Pratt quote. They offer scores of quotes, including others by Orson Pratt.

    Second, I offer three logically-independent arguments and all you do is respond to the one that analyzes of quote.

    Third, as I noted above, Sandra Tanner is not advancing anything controversial. The simple fact that the church has changed its take on the First Vision simply is not controversial. Assuming the quote is a bad one, you can’t accuse them of subterfuge, just sloppiness at worst. If I write an essay and claim that the presidential inauguration occurs on Jan 20th, and my source for that date doesn’t support that, you’re probably not being honest if you accuse me of attempting pull one over on people.

    Fourth, the distorted quotes can’t be that easy to find. The page you point to has scores of quotes. Do you pick one 3/4 down the page because it was the first one that you looked up?

    Lastly, you’re using your methodological hang-ups as a smoke screen to avoid admitting that the thesis of the paper is correct. This is a typical approach of apologists. It’s why I frequently change apologists with dishonesty. For example, the Brown’s answer to the Tanner’s work on the Chandler papyri impugns the credentials of their translator of the Book of Abraham, and never addresses the fact that his translation is basically correct. And though the Tanners replaced his work in subsequent editions, the charge is advanced to this day that the Tanners used an unqualified translator to attack the Book of Abraham–as though this magically turns the papyri into exactly what Joseph said they were.

  69. Mark, I reread your original comment. You are claiming that the Tanner’s are trying to conceal the fact that Orson Pratt and other church leaders referred to the beings as personages are sited the repetition of the Jesus’s transfiguration theophany (“This is my beloved Son…”).

    In this respect, you’ve also misused the Tanner’s quote in exactly the way that you are charging misuse against them. In fact, you either didn’t read them carefully, or you are lying. The later part of the range is full of references to the theophany formula, both before and after the one that you sight. Far from trying to conceal these items, it is pretty clear to reasonable readers that the Tanner’s are just trying to be brief.

  70. Mike Parker says:

    So, I’m either incompetent or a liar? Wonderful.

    The Tanners were not “trying to be brief.” They were trying to show that the First Vision was not taught in a recognizable form by early Church leaders, and that instead these leaders claimed Joseph Smith had an encounter with an angel. They further claim that the angel story was inflated as time went by into a full-blown vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ. To support their claim, they quote Orson Pratt, removing a large portion of his address that directly refutes their argument.

    Personally, I’m rather staggered that you can’t (or won’t) see what is an obvious case of distortion on the part of the Tanners. And this is just one example — they do it over and over again. (Sometime let’s discuss their claim that John Taylor hardly ever mentioned the First Vision. That’s a whopper!)

    But perhaps it is just me, the liar who can read clearly. Sometimes I even look out the window and think that the sky is blue, so what do I know?

  71. Mike Parker: So, I’m either incompetent or a liar? Wonderful.

    It’s an easy enough choice. The point I make is a rather obvious one.

    Mike Parker: The Tanners were not “trying to be brief.” They were trying to show that the First Vision was not taught in a recognizable form by early Church leaders, and that instead these leaders claimed Joseph Smith had an encounter with an angel.

    Wrong again, Mike. They’re trying to show that descriptions were all over the map.

    Mike Parker: They further claim that the angel story was inflated as time went by into a full-blown vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ. To support their claim, they quote Orson Pratt, removing a large portion of his address that directly refutes their argument.

    You keep saying this, even though you’ve already been corrected.

    You start by saying, B follows from A, and then, after that has been shown to be false, you continue with and C follows from B as though your first assertion hasn’t already been answered. That’s just a sophomoric rhetorical trick.

    Mike Parker: Personally, I’m rather staggered that you can’t (or won’t) see what is an obvious case of distortion on the part of the Tanners. And this is just one example — they do it over and over again. (Sometime let’s discuss their claim that John Taylor hardly ever mentioned the First Vision. That’s a whopper!)

    You can’t say stuff like this and still credibly protest that you’re both honest and competent.

    My goal in arguing with you is to show how reflexively “defenders of the faith” pettifog about minutiae instead of addressing the overall thesis of the page, which is incontrovertible. I think that this goal has been accomplished. I’ll give you the last word now, if you want it.

  72. Mike Parker says:

    DKL: There is not a petty argument over “minutiae.” The Tanners are claiming a very specific thing…

    …the written records of the church show that the first vision stands on very uncertain ground. The first vision story and the LDS doctrine of God have continually evolved. The LDS Church’s current position was not the position of the church in 1830 or 1835.

    Thus we see that the details of the first vision vary in the different accounts. Early LDS leaders usually thought of the vision as one of angels, not God. They did not appeal to the first vision to establish their teaching that God has a body.

    …and mustering quotes to support that thesis. But their quotes are carefully chosen and edited to make it appear that the early leaders of the Church are saying one thing, when in fact, they often said something quite different. The Tanners are distorting the record by (a) leaving out important quotes, and (b) frequently editing the ones they have chosen.

    More examples:

    TANNERS:

    LDS President Brigham Young taught on Feb. 18, 1855: “…so it was in the advent of this new dispensation….The messenger did not come to an eminent divine…The Lord did not come with the armies of heaven,…But He did send His angel to this same obscure person, Joseph Smith jun., who afterwards became a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, and informed him that he should not join any of the religious sects of the day,…” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 2, p. 171)

    The edited quote makes it seem Brigham Young is saying “The Lord did not come with the armies of heaven [to Joseph Smith], But He did send His angel to this same obscure person….” Here’s the full quote, which restores the context, with excised parts in italics:

    BRIGHAM YOUNG

    But as it was in the days of our Savior, so was it in the advent of this new dispensation. It was not in accordance with the notions, traditions, and pre-conceived ideas of the American people. The messenger did not come to an eminent divine of any of the so-called orthodoxy, he did not adopt their interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. The Lord did not come with the armies of heaven, in power and great glory, nor send His messengers panoplied with aught else than the truth of heaven, to communicate to the meek, the lowly, the youth of humble origin, the sincere enquirer after the knowlege [knowledge] of God. But He did send His angel to this same obscure person, Joseph Smith jun., who afterwards became a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, and informed him that he should not join any of the religious sects of the day, for they were all wrong; that they were following the precepts of men instead of the Lord Jesus; that He had a work for him to perform, inasmuch as he should prove faithful before Him.

    Brigham is actually saying that the Lord did not send a messenger to the learned men of the day, nor did He appear Himself to ignorant men, but he sent his angel [Moroni] to Joseph Smith. The quote has nothing whatsoever to do with the First Vision, but the Tanners’ editing makes it appear that Brigham is saying there was no First Vision.

    Don’t like that one? How about this:

    TANNERS

    LDS Apostle Heber C. Kimball, speaking Nov. 8th, 1857, seemed to be oblivious to any vision where Smith saw God and Christ: “Do you suppose that God in person called upon Joseph Smith, our Prophet? God called upon him; but God did not come himself and call, but he sent Peter to do it. Do you not see? He sent Peter and sent Moroni to Joseph, and told him that he had got the plates.” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 6, p. 29)

    Yep, certainly looks like Heber is saying that God never came to Joseph Smith, just Peter and Moroni. That is, until you read what Kimball actually said:

    HEBER C. KIMBALL

    Do you suppose that God in person called upon Joseph Smith, our Prophet? God called upon him; but God did not come himself and call, but he sent Peter to do it. Do you not see? He sent Peter and sent Moroni to Joseph, and told him that he had got the plates. Did God come himself? No: he sent Moroni and told him there was a record, and says he, “That record is matter that pertains to the Lamanites, and it tells when their fathers came out of Jerusalem, and how they came, and all about it; and, says he, “If you will do as I tell you, I will confer a gift upon you.” Well, he conferred it upon him, because Joseph said he would do as he told him. “I want you to go to work and take the Urim and Thummim, and translate this book, and have it published, that this nation may read it.” Do you not see, by Joseph receiving the gift that was conferred upon him, you and I have that record?

    Well, when this took place, Peter came along to him and gave power and authority, and, says he, “You go and baptise Oliver Cowdery, and then ordain him a Priest.” He did it, and do you not see his works were in exercise? Then Oliver, having authority, baptised Joseph and ordained him a Priest. Do you not see the works, how they manifest themselves?

    Well, then Peter comes along. Why did not God come? He sent Peter, do you not see? Why did he not come along? Because he has agents to attend to his business, and he sits upon his throne and is established at head-quarters, and tells this man, “Go and do this;” and it is behind the vail just as it is here. You have got to learn that.

    So when we read the whole thing, to our amazement we discover that Kimball was talking about the transmission of the plates, the receiving of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods, and the other steps necessary for the Restoration. God himself does not come down at every step; he has agents who do the work for him. None of this precludes a First Vision — we’re dealing with issues that came afterward.

    The Tanners do this over, and over, and over. That you can’t see it, or aren’t willing to admit it, is of serious concern to me, mainly because I don’t want people to be led out of the Church by such disingenuous tactics.

    This is not nitpicking over minutiae. It’s addressing the primary M.O. of two people who — however sincere and nice — have misrepresented the historical record.

  73. Mike Parker, thanks for the valiant effort. Jerald Tanner may have been the most wonderful father, friend and neighbor in the world, but to confuse that with his religious objectives and methods is pettifogging at its worst.

  74. Steve Evans says:

    Mike: “perhaps it is just me, the liar who can read clearly”

    Mike, it’s all about decorum and context. DKL wrote a fine obituary, one respectful of the dead. You should know better than to post mudslinging comments about Jerald Tanner on his obituary, even if your analyses are correct. KLC, call it pettifogging if you will, but again, this isn’t a post to dissect Jerald Tanner’s antimormon efforts. Feel free to post on your own blog something of the sort.

  75. Steve, see DKL’s #72 for the original pettifogging text. I was merely using a term of art introduced by him. See, I was kind of being hip and sly by indirectly referring to something someone else had writ…ahhh, never mind.

    DKL wrote a fine eulogy, not an obituary. But in his remarks he introduced the topic of Tanner’s life work. How can it be indecorous of Mike to respond to what he had already written?

  76. Steve Evans says:

    “How can it be indecorous?”

    I know — I can’t believe it either. I am no fan of the Tanners, but I know better than to badmouth them in this context. It’s a matter of class, I think.

  77. I don’t understand how Mike’s specific examples showing bad use of ellipsis constitute mudslinging or bad mouthing. Is giving evidence of poor practice actually a lack of class? And why pick on Mike? DKL certainly gave as good as he got in the exchange. Is his lack of class just assumed?

  78. Here’s the skinny:

    The Tanner’s were not “anti-Mormons.” They were simply Christians. Why it is that Mormons have to brand anyone who exposes the many contradictions and fallacies within Mormonism is deemed “anti-Mormon” is beyond me. You would think Mormons would be able, after all this time, to engage in honest TRUTH SEEKING regarding their own (and other’s) religion.

    I used to spend a good deal of time online doing what I could to show Mormons the truth of the Christian gospel. (I’m a Jewish believer in Christ.) I gave up doing that because it seemed to be getting nowhere. But this article makes me want to jump back in the fray.

    David C. Harris

  79. PS: The burden of proof, that the Book of Mormon is a legit expression of the Holy Spirit of God, does not depend on the people who rebuke it – it depends on the supposed “evidence” (what evidence???) Mormons claim it has.

    Kids, even MORMONS themselves are beginning to face the realize (and come to grips with the fact) that the Book of Mormon is a fraudulent document.

    And I, for one, and relieved at the trend. What I would like to do is provide an alternative: The Bible!

  80. KLC: Is giving evidence of poor practice actually a lack of class?

    I’m no arbiter of class. I think that vociferously misrepresenting their viewpoint is bad form, within the context of this post and without.

    Mike, I know I’d promised you the last word, but I think I’ve had an insight into the disconnect that is causing you to offer such an unclear reason. (So, I’ll let you get the last word eventually, but pardon my final attempt to offer clarity.)

    You keep claiming that the Tanners are claiming that it was a mere angel appeared to Joseph. I’ve pointed out that they are highlighting the use of the term “angel” in reference to the appearance of God to Joseph, and that if you understand the quotations in this context, then there is no abuse in the ellipses. Either I’ve been less than clear in drawing this distinction, or you do not understand the significance of this distinction I’m drawing.

    The Old Testament uses the term, “Angel of the Lord” to refer to the physical, human-like manifestation of Jehova. Thus, Jacob wrestle with the “Angel of the Lord” and says, “I have seen God face to face.” There is no implication here of a God who is a physical being, just a God who is able to manifest himself in physical form. The Tanner’s focus on the usage of the term “angel” is significant in-and-of-itself; it’s not aimed at showing that they were mere angels, as is shown by the number of quotes on that page which are very clear about who the angels are. This usage shows that these leaders understood the First Vision differently from the interpretation that Gordon Hinckley offers, when he says, “”Two beings of substance were before him. He saw them…. They were not amorphous spirits…. They were beings of flesh and bone.”

    And in this misreading of yours, I do find more than a hint of pettifogging. Given all the ink that has been spilt trying to offer nuanced and charitable readings of problematic Book of Mormon passages, church leader quotes, and church historical narratives, I do find it troubling that Mormons have such a knee-jerk, uncharitable reaction to anything that challenges them. I know a European guy, who (though he is not a communist, or even a socialist) loses no opportunity to point out positive facts about communist countries like Cuba, the old USSR, North Korea, or Vietnam, but scoffs at anything positive that anybody says about the USA or its history; if you say, “the skiing is good in Colorado,” his likely response is “no better than what we have in Europe.” Why the double standard?

  81. But the Skiing is better in Europe…

  82. Not to quibble, Dave, but you’re saying the Book of Mormon is fraudulent and the Bible is the bastian of purity and accuracy?

    I’m not even sure the Catholics believe that anymore, and they wrote it.

  83. The Catholics wrote the Bible? :-)

Trackbacks

  1. […] – Look, the Catholic Church is mentioned in an unfavorable way in this post about the late Jerald Tanner (requiescat in pace) on By Common Consent! Excerpt: We should be ashamed to make the same mistake that the Catholic church makes when it condemns heretics, but refuses to discipline those, like Cardinal Bernard Law, whose actions lead to palpable evil and suffering. […]