"Oh, this stuff is dynamite!", exclaimed a prestigious director of a Mormon Institute of Religion. "I tell you, though you may not believe it, I have seen people get utterly crushed, almost devastated with some of the material that the Tanners have reproduced."
"I will tell you," he continues, "there was an Institute teacher here, not long ago...who lost his testimony and went out of the church on the basis of this stuff."
That description of the effects of Jerald and Sandra Tanner's publishing efforts to unmask Mormonism is hardly an over statement.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with its smooth public relations presentation and its well-veneered appearance, would hardly lead one to expect to find lurking beneath the surface teachings and actions that would shock the average Mormon if he knew them. Few Mormons or non-Mormons know that the founder-prophet, Joseph Smith. Jr., palmed off on the public an Egyptian funeral papyrus as the actual writings of the patriarch Abraham; or that early Mormons were encouraged to marry Indian women so that a Mormon prophecy would be fulfilled that the indians would become a "white and delightsome people." These are but a few of the myriads of inner weaknesses, corruptions, contradictions, and suppressions of documents and information that the Tanners have uncovered and published in their twenty years of ministry to the Mormons.
Their major work, Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? has sold more than thirty thousand copies without any advertising campaign, simply because it is the most definitive work in print on the fallacies of Mormonism. This condensed version of that earlier work, though still of necessity lengthy, sets forth the heart of their extensive research. The Mormon authorities have usually answered the Tanners by the silent treatment, apparently feeling that the less exposure their work received the better it would be for the church. Recently, however, Mormon authorities have issued an anonymous reply that any reputable scholar and historian would be rightly ashamed to sign his name to. The Tanners' research has repeatedly held up under attack, especially during this most recent effort by the Mormon Church. The difficulty with answering the Tanners, as one Mormon scholar has pointed out, is that it "would require certain admissions that Mormon history is not exactly as the Church has taught it was, that there were things taught and practiced in the nineteenth century of which the General Church membership is unaware." It is into that startling area of the suppressed and censored, behind the facade of present respectability — to the real Mormonism that lurks in the shadows — that the Tanners lead us in their book The Changing World of Mormonism.
Wesley P. Walters
Journal of Pastoral Practice