-- Truth Shall Prevail

The Anti-Tannerism HomePage

-- Established April 6, 2001 --

What This is All About

IN a current on-line statement, anti-Mormon activists, Jerald and Sandra Tanner describe their Utah Lighthouse Ministry as "a Christian non-profit organization providing humanitarian outreach to the Community, and printing critical research and documentation on the LDS Church." Author Lawrence Foster paints a complementary, but somewhat different picture of the couple's work in his "Apostate Believers: Jerald and Sandra Tanner's Encounter with Mormon History," (in Roger D. Launius, editor. Differing Visions: Dissenters in Mormon History Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994).

Assuming the editorial "we" for the remainder of this introduction, the web-host and his like-minded associates wish to point out that Utah Lighthouse Ministry (formerly a.k.a. Modern Microfilm Co.) fosters and promotes a problematic view of Mormon origins and evolution -- a distorted image which today negatively impacts the objective research and reporting of Latter Day Saint history and religion. In other words, we disagree with the foundational paradigm for the phenomenon of "Mormonism" as promulgated by Jerald and Sandra Tanner and we disagree with several of their most basic assumptions in attempting to reconstruct and explain LDS history and early LDS religion. Our disagreements with what we call "Tannerism" are of such a broad scope and extensive nature that we feel it is well worth our time and trouble to establish and maintain this web-page at the site. In future updates to this page (and in the sharing of information and views on its associated sub-pages) we will attempt to elucidate those disagreements with new and stimulating ideas, conclusions, and documentation.

Our Definition of TANNERISM

Having invoked the term "Tannerism," we will say that the word was first defined on-line in a 1998 essay as: "the process whereby one presents the appearance of offering substantial explanations for Mormon beginnings and problematic actions, while at the same time consciously avoiding useful new inquiry into the most relevant aspects of those origins and actions." In adopting this definition as the credo of the Anti-Tannerism HomePage we understand full well that many well-intentioned people will disagree vehemently with this viewpoint. We hope to defend it and eventually prove the statement an accurate one. However, if sufficient compelling argument can be presented by the Tanners, their defenders, or simply by disinterested persons seeking to do what is right, we hold open the possibility of revising this credo or of eleminating it altogether. Time will tell what will be the most prudent course.

We have no interest in attacking the Tanners as individuals, as professing Christians, or as seasoned researchers and reporters. The disagreements we have with them do not concern matters of their uncovering and popularizing many strange obscurities and disturbing problems associated with the origin, rise and progress of Mormonism. And, while we use a cancelation of their well-known Mormonism -- Shadow of Reality? as the symbol of anti-Tannerism, we seek not to denigrate its content in general, nor to impinge upon the couple's contunued sales of this volume. Our disagreements with the reporting, conclusions, and consequences associated with this and other publications written by the Tanners are not so much with the assertions they have printed therein, as with methodology by which those assertions were arrived at and with the context in which they have been presented.

The Tanners as Disciples of Fawn Brodie

It may be illuminating to mention that, at one point, we came close to selecting the name "Anti-Brodie HomePage," for the current web-page, but then laid that pregnant nomenclature aside for the more serviceable "Anti-Tannerism HomePage." Fawn M. Brodie is dead and gone, having made her lasting contributions to both the effective improvement and the effective disabling of critical Mormon studies. We have no private bone to pick with the ghost of Mrs. Brodie, however much we may censure certain of her motivations, views and infectious historical conclusions. Our hope is, rather, to stimulate a new dialog on the motivations, views and historical conclusions employed by Jerald and Sandra Tanner, especially in the field of Latter Day Saint origins and the significance of those origins within contemporary religion. The Tanners are, in many ways, disciples of the late Mrs. Brodie and are obviously beholden to her for a good deal of the personal views they express in print regarding Joseph Smith, Jr. and the new religious movement he and his associates brought into being. Given this situation, it is only natural that we will devote a goodly portion of our on-line reporting here at the Anti-Tannerism HomePage to the task of better understanding Brodie, her considerable effect upon researchers like the Tanners, and those critical junctures where both she and they appear to have gone astray in their most basic understandings concerning the birth and growth of this new religion.

Fawn McKay Brodie

Following in Brodie's footsteps, the Tanners have systematically obscured or eliminated from their publications all explanations for the origin and rise of Mormonism, other than those that focus squarely upon Joseph Smith, Jr. as the founder and guiding genius of "the latter day work." History will eventually prove whether the Tanners have been correct or not in following this "Smith-as-the-author" pathway -- probably it will eventually judge their choice in this theorizing harshly. But, whatever the final outcome may be, the Tanners have themselves entered into the court of public opinion and judged certain writers (with whose opinions regarding Mormon origins they do not agree) harshly. One clear-cut example of this rush to unfair judgment may be seen in their censure of the Rev. William H. Whitsitt, third President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary at Louisville, Kentucky and biographer of Elder Sidney Rigdon. In this particular case, the Tanners have cast the veil of implicit character assassination over the visage of Rev. Whitsitt, all but condemning him of fabricating anti-Mormon forgeries and blasphemously placing words such as these into the mouth of Jesus Christ:

"After reproving the Latter Day Saints for their corruption and blindness in permitting their President, Joseph Smith, Jr., to lead them forth into errors, where I led him not, not commanded him, and saying unto them, 'Thus saith the Lord,' when I said it not unto him, thou shalt withdraw thyself from among them."

It must stagger the imagination of even the most jaded accuser to suppose that the Reverend Doctor Whitsitt would surreptitiously concoct such a fake "divine revelation," even if he was in agreement with the idea that Joseph Smith, Jr. had led the early Mormons "into errors" warranting the wrath of God. Nevertheless, the Tanners straightfacedly advance this very prevarication, in Whitsitt's good name, as the most probable source for the spurious "Cowdery Defence," and its allusion to Sidney Rigdon having been Joseph Smith's "angel." If the question is asked, why did the Tanners choose to "pin the blame" on William H. Whitsitt, rather than, say, Daniel Braxton Turney, the only possible answer forthcoming evidently is that Whitsitt angered the Tanners by his advocating the Spalding-Rigdon explanation for Book of Mormon origins -- a piece of historical reconstruction that they simply will not consider, nor allow others to consider, if within their power to divert peoples' attention away from that possibility.

Rev. Dr. William Heth Whitsitt

But the worse part of this whole sordid affair is that, for more than four years, Sandra Tanner has refused to devote even a few moments' consideration of the on-line evidence, posted in Dr. Whitsitt's defense. She is on record as having "too little time" available to review or comment upon the current writer's refutation of dubious Tannerite defamation of an honored educator and devout disciple of the Gospel. This is only one example of how Tannerism warps and distorts events, motivations, and outcomes of the past.

The Future of anti-Mormonism

In their August 8, 1978 supplement to Did Spalding Write the Book of Mormon? Jerald and Sandra Tanner say on page 33: "We firmly believe that all work against Mormonism should be based on reliable evidence which will meet the test of time. In the end, anything less than this only tends to strengthen the Mormon position and makes it more difficult to deal with Church members. Bringing out the truth should be our objective." This last sentence expresses a laudable mission and a noble goal; we support Mr. and Mrs. Tanner (more and more now, just Mrs. Tanner, since about 2001) wholeheartedly in trying to achieve that goal. What they may wish to take note of is that "Mormonism" is continually evolving, even as they "work against" that peculiar religion. The related discipline of Latter Day Saintism is also a growing, changing movement. Whether we dispose of one of these within the bounds of the other, or choose to view them as interrelated separate phenomena, both movements present problems for traditional Christianity and to the principle of the separation of church and state. It is perhaps significant that in the same month (April 2001) leaders of the LDS Church called for the disassociation of their religion from the terms "Mormon" and "Mormonism;" while the Reorganized LDS Church changed its name entirely, as the climax to a three-year religious "transformation."

Bogus Opposition Leader  (from 1984 the movie)

Mrs. Tanner (her husband passed away in Oct. 2006) may already find herself strange bed-fellows with some of the ecclesiastical heirs of Joseph Smith, in working to rid the world of things "Mormon." Before the fruition of that program, the proponents of Tannerism may also find themselves and their work co-opted by certain Latter Day Saint forces contriving to exert an invisible control over "the opposition." Our re-reading of the nature and function of the Emmanuel Goldstein underground in George Orwell's spine-chilling classic on the battle for men's minds, 1984, may be advisable.

Dale R. Broadhurst
( "On a bright cold day in April..." )

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last revised: Oct. 1, 2006