Talk:Jerald and Sandra Tanner

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Tanners are anti-Mormon propagandists[edit]

The primary problem with this article is that it doesn't make clear that these folks are anti-Mormon propagandists. Sure even propagandists do good things too, but lets not overstate their usefulness. Their publication of early Mormon writings has been appreciated by both supporters and opponents of the Tanners, but the conclusions they draw from the documents lack credibility. B 22:09, Jan 6, 2004 (UTC)

It seems to me that it states exactly what they are: ex-Mormons who no longer follow the faith and are extremely critical of it. 'Propagandists' is a very loaded term. DJ Clayworth 22:14, 6 Jan 2004 (UTC)

They are more than exteremely critical of it. They are more often than not deceitfully or recklessly critical of it. I invite you to read their works and the criticisms of their works. I'm confident any one who is honest with him/herself and looks at the evidence will see these folks for who they are. They come across as very sincere, but it's unfortunate that not enough people outside of Mormonism know enough about the Tanners' work (and a number of other anti-Mormons) that they end up wasting their time on crap written by antis when there is much better research written on Mormonism. B 22:39, Jan 6, 2004 (UTC)

If the Tanners are being deceitful or reckless, give some specific examples. That they may have different conclusions about documents or history than the LDS church does not make them guilty of deceipt or recklessness.

Comments from related article[edit]

I republish here my comments from a related article:

Lets look at the facts:

  1. Are either of the Tanners professionals or have any sort of relevant, higher or graduate education? No, they are mere anti-Mormon propogandists.
  2. Are any of the Tanners' (anti-Mormon) works either presented or published in peer reviewed publications. No, their incompetent work does not merit respect in such publications.
  3. What is the quality of their (anti-Mormon) work? Unscholarly and Poor. It is, for example, a regular tactic of the Tanners to misrepresent the Church and its History by (incompetent or more likely deliberate) omimission of relevant text in their citations. Not to mention the odd habit of OVEREMPHASIS BY CAPITALIZING, BOLDING AND ITALICIZING SOMETIMES WHOLE PARAGRAPHS EVEN WHEN QUOTING OTHERS TO CONVEY SENSATIONALISM OF SHOCKING MISREPRESENTATIONS OF THE CHURCH!!!
  4. Are there any non-Mormon scholars who think highly of the Tanners' (anti-Mormon) works as a whole or their methodology? No, not a single one.
  5. Are there any non-Mormon scholars who are critical of the Tanners' (anti-Mormon) works? Yes, for example, Lawrence Foster, an associate professor of American history at the Georgia Institute of Technology who has over a decade's experience on Mormonism, says this of the Tanners' work:
  • (Until they "are prepared to abide by accepted standards of scholarly behavior and common courtesy, they can expect little sympathy from serious historians," and "the Tanners' own work falls short of history."
  • "The Tanners have repeatedly assumed 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."
  • Foster gives the Tanners credit for publishing old LDS documents, "but criticizes them for using unauthorized materials which" have been acquired leaving "much to be desired, ethically speaking." The Tanners often publish "scholarly works of living individuals without their permission," because "the end (destroying Mormonism) justifies the means."
  • "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."

As stated above, they are nothing more than anti-Mormon propagandists. B 23:38, Jan 6, 2004 (UTC)

Questioning credentials is an ad hominem attack[edit]

The question of their education, credentials, peer review is merely an ad hominem attack. They have more education and credentials than Joseph Smith had.

Umm... Doesn't any high-school graduate have more credentials than Joseph Smith, (or for that matter, Jesus Christ) had?

As for non-Mormon scholars who think highly of the Tanners, I guess Michael Quinn might fall into that category now that he's been excommunicated. Quinn is apparently the author of the anonymous attack on the Tanners that was published a couple of decades ago, but in recent years he has more of positive things to say about them, as has BYU professor Daniel C. Peterson. According to Peterson, ""As far as LDS history goes, there's no one out there who has the documents mastered as they do." According to Quinn, their republication of historic documents "has been a tremendous contribution" for "people who are just curious about Mormon history." [1]

Furthermore, Lawrence Foster, the non-Mormon you mention, has had a number of positive things to say about the Tanners:

  • "Yet the Tanners have been more than simply gadflies; in curious and often indirect ways, their work has also been a factor helping to stimulate serious Mormon Historical writing."
  • "Jerald and Sandra Tanner are without doubt among the most complex and multi-faceted of all the figures whom I have encountered in Mormon history, past or present."
  • "From the very beginning the Tanners' concerns were not simply doctrinal but also social. Jerald's fierce opposition to Mormon racism, for example, has been a recurrent motif throughout his career."
  • "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... A number of reasons lie behind the Mormon church's decision to try to publicly ignore the Tanners. Basically the Tanners have adopted a brilliant, two-pronged debaters ploy which is exceedingly difficult to handle without greater knowledge and sophistication than most church leaders appear to possess."
  • "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."
  • "My opinion is that the long-term interests of the Church... would best be served by moving as expeditiously and fearlessly as possible to admit frankly the truth of those factual points on which Jerald and Sandra Tanner are indisputably correct."[2]

Even FAIR says some positive things about them, and quotes Foster saying that some of their "research and analysis ... would do credit to any professional historian." [3]

Does this mean that the Tanners are infallible or that anyone should take their judgments at face value? No, of course not. I regard them as excellent, reliable sources of primary documents. Moreover, I take their analysis seriously (when I read it, which is rarely). I don't necessarily agree with their analysis. I'm not a born-again Christian, for example. However, they can't be dismissed as "nothing more than anti-Mormon propagandists." They're more than that.

You may want to respond that this still doesn't amount to any scholars who think highly of their work "as a whole," but so what? That's an extraordinarily high bar for anyone to meet. There's a difference between saying that no one praises all of their work and claiming that the Tanners are nothing more than propagandists. It sounds like you're trying to take people who are "complex and multi-faceted" (to use Foster's phrase) and simplify them into objects of wholesale dismissal and condemnation. Sheldon Rampton

"Not professional historians"[edit]

Credentialism that singles out the Tanners for not being professional historians or academically credentialed seems a bit odd when discussing critics of a church that was founded by a farm boy with a third grade education and that prides itself on having a lay clergy. This sentence seems like an effort to insert a point of view, since nothing in the article prior to that sentence implied or suggested a claim that that they were university professors. Moreover, what constitutes a "professional historian"? Presumably the Tanners derive their income from their sale of reproductions of historical documents and their own writings about Mormon history. This arguably makes them "professional historians" even if they lack formal academic credentials. Should an article about B.H. Roberts, a Mormon apostle and the author of many widely-cited books about Mormonism and LDS history, also state that he was not a professional historian and lacked academic training in scriptural interpretation? Sheldon Rampton

Well, it appears to be something that their critics point out, so maybe we should phrase it like "Critics within the Church have called the Tanners' credibility into question because they are not professional historians or academic scholars of scripture." I would prefer it if we could add a specific cite for someone who actually said this, though.--Eloquence*

Credentials are not POV[edit]

Sheldon, credentials (or the lack thereof) are relevant in a wikipedia article like this, and not POV, whether it regards the Tanners, Smith, Roberts, lay clergy or anyone else. The fact is the Tanners are not credentialed or degreed writers of Mormonism; they are amateurs...whether they are good or poor at what they do is a matter of opinion...that is POV, but their lack of credentials...that is not POV, it's just a fact. Your deletion of this fact smacks of censorship. If I were to use a Tanner tactic, I might speculate with emphasis: WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO HIDE?!

If you are so inclined to provide more details about Smith and Roberts credentials, knock yourself out, but your comments above indicate to me that you are going to have to be better informed if you hope to do a very good job at that. The fact that you would even seemingly rank the Tanners expertise on the same level as Smith or Roberts is laughable. While Smith started out "a farm boy with a third grade education", he went well beyond that by the end of his life, nor do the Tanners claim divine instruction and guidance as Smith claimed. "It sounds like you're trying to take [Smith] who [is] "complex and multi-faceted" (to use Foster's phrase) and simplify [him]"—reducing his entire life's learning into one description of his early life. Your comments above gloss over these things, not to mention "lay clergy". Frankly, your quotes and cites above are offensive; I feel like you are treating me like the Tanners would treat most "complex and multi-faceted" Mormons. As I've told you before, I'm familiar with the history, apologist and critical material of Mormonism: Quinn, Foster, Tanners, FAIR, whatever. Basically, I think your behavior on the Mormonism articles is caddish if not intentionally mean. I expect better from you: Treat me with respect—don't insult my intelligence, experience and good sense and I'll respond in like kind.

Still the fact remains, the Tanners are propagandists: whatever source materials they have made available or whatever analysis they make of it, doctrine, policy, etc is all driven by a singular purpose to tear down Mormonism and the Church overwhelmingly at the cost of fairness, evenhandedness and thoroughness. There is nothing "complex and multi-faceted" about that, and however sincere the Tanners are, that is what they have dedicated their lives to. To believe their motives are otherwise is naive because they have said as much. They have made up their mind about the Church and Mormonism, proof to the contrary be damned, or at least by them...ignored. If you want to call some Mormons "propagandists" too, fine. Funny though, I haven't heard any rumors the Church sent out its Danites to eliminate the Tanners yet least, not officially. B|Talk 17:15, May 19, 2004 (UTC)

I didn't insult you. Frankly, you're the one who's been using abusive language. Here are some examples from your comments above: "propagandists," "lack credibility," "deceitful," "crap," "amateurs," "censorship," "you are going to have to be better informed," "laughable," "offensive," "caddish," "intentionally mean." "be damned." I don't think you can find a similar string of abusive phrases in anything I have written regarding this topic. It's clear that you have a very strong point of view. You hate the Tanners. You're entitled to your feelings, but you're not entitled to inject them into this article as though it were a neutral point of view.
Your prevarication above is notable. You start by denying any insult to me, but then mix together generalizations about "abusive language" I used to describe the Tanners' work with comments about the contemptuous bigotry with which you have treated me. Your implicit bigotry is more transparent by continuing to read my mind and motives (you'd probably be good friends with Brodie) "You hate the Tanners" and attributing an agenda by me to inject my personal POV into the article. Frankly, I could care less about the far as I'm concerned they are amateur anti-Mormon blowhards who are wasting their time devoting their life to destroying an institution in which believers and converts see them as further proof of the authenticity of Mormonism. Hate them?! Hardly, but I have come to dislike you. I would just as soon that more Mormons become familiar with the Tanners' writings, but most Mormons don't want to waste their time with their irresponsible anti-Mormonism. B|Talk
You wrote: "The fact that you would even seemingly rank the Tanners expertise on the same level as Smith or Roberts is laughable. While Smith started out 'a farm boy with a third grade education', he went well beyond that by the end of his life, nor do the Tanners claim divine instruction and guidance as Smith claimed." Actually, what's laughable here is your double standard. With regard to the Tanners, you think their lack of academic credentials means they should be depicted as ignorant amateurs, whereas Smith and Roberts, neither of whom acquired their knowledge through an academy, are to be praised for havong gone "well beyond" the level of knowledge that one would assume based on their formal schooling. This is a double standard, because you're not willing to acknowledge that the Tanners have also acquired a level of knowledge that goes beyond their level of formal schooling -- a fact which is attested by the Mormon and non-Mormon scholars I cited above. Moreover, the Tanners do claim "divine instruction and guidance." They are born-again Christians who claim to have received divine instruction and guidance through a combination of Bible study and prayer. I don't share their religious beliefs any more than I share yours, but I see no reason to doubt their honesty, and don't think you have any basis either for pretending that they are dishonest. They are simply people with strongly-held beliefs that differ markedly from yours -- and, because you find their point of view so abhorrent, you feel compelled to attack their "motives" and character with phrases like "propagandist," "crap" and "deceitful."
You've missed the point about informal education here...hardly a double standard: the Tanners have never claimed divine instruction and guidance "as Smith claimed"; they have never claimed to have instruction from heavenly beings from Adam to Peter, nor visions and visitations from other divine beings. It's the quality of the informal education we are talking about here, Sheldon. Not to mention private tutors. Again, your comparison of the Tanners' education to Smith or Roberts is laughable and exposes your ignorance of either the Tanners', Smith's or Roberts' education over their lifetimes. B|Talk
The problem with simply declaring that they are not university scholars is that this is a characterization of something that they are not. There are an infinite number of things about the Tanners that are not true, but there needs to be a good reason for including them in an article about the Tanners. For example, there is no point in including a line that says, "The Tanners are not Egyptians," or "Jerald Tanner never destroyed a newspaper's printing press after it correctly accused him of practicing polygamy." Inserting the line about them not being Egyptian would just be silly; the line about not destroying a printing press would be a POV jab at Joseph Smith. It's not "censorship" to say that these lines don't belong in the article; it's simple fairness. Likewise, you shouldn't arbitrarily inject a line about them not being scholars. The only reason you are pushing so strongly to include that line is that you are trying to discredit them, and that's POV.
I certainly did not intend "university" scholars, I meant "scholar" or even "professional" in general. The fact still remains, the Tanners are generally not looked upon as fair and even-handed critics, scholars or professionals (or whatever) of Mormonism by groups like the Mormon Historical Association or its past presidents like non-LDS Professors of Mormonism, Jan Shipps. It is perfectly fair, NPOV and relevant to note this in the article. Discredit? Whatever. B|Talk
Having said all this, I will say that I think the solution posed by Eloquence is a good one. Rather than simply declaring ex cathedra that they are not scholars, I think we can find a reasonable compromise if we quote the opinions of experts who have examined their work, such as Peterson and Foster whom I cited above. I'll take a stab at a paragraph that accomplishes this, and you can see what you think. --Sheldon Rampton 08:13, 20 May 2004 (UTC)
No one has ever suggested to proceed otherwise, Sheldon. (That is, to attribute POVs rather than declare them "ex cathedra"). To attribute a contrary policy to me (or anyone) is putting words in other people's mouths...a sophist tactic I'd expect you (self-appointed "exposer" of special interest groups) to loath rather than practice, Sheldon. This has been the whole problem with your interaction with me from the beginning: your bigotry towards me that I have some agenda to interpolate POVs (personal or otherwise) into wikipedia. Every criticism you direct towards me implicitly if not explicitly presumes this. Rather than make speculative attempts at mind reading, give the benefit of the doubt and just stick to the articles rather than making implicit or explicit personal attacks against me. If you hope you to contribute cooperatively to Mormonism articles, you might want to check any bigoted, prejudicial stereotypes of Mormons at the wikipedia door, Sheldon. B|Talk 18:59, 5 Jun 2004 (UTC)

I realize I'm responsing to comments from two years ago, but... Stating that lacking said credentials detracts from the salience of their criticism is not NPOV... However, if you can find an instance of a scholar criticizing the Tanner's work because of their lack of credentials, then be bold and add it along with a reference. That would maintain NPOV. But saying something like "some historians call in to question the veracity of the Tanner's work noting their lack of credentials" is weasly and a LONG way from maintaining NPOV, unless you have cited referenced saying just that. -Porlob 16:51, 12 October 2006 (UTC)

For an article supposedly about two people, there is remarkably little actual information about them. Could we find some more info about these people, their lives? Also we should at least give an overview of what they have done before we start criticising it. DJ Clayworth 15:14, 20 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Changes in the Standard Works[edit]

The article cites the Tanners' examination of changes in the Book of Mormon over the years, which is probably the least consequental of their examination of changes to LdS scriptures. Changes in the Book of Commandments (now called Doctrine and Covenants) are not inconsequential at all; they're often dramatic, sometimes momentous, and now and then amusing for their attempt at "post-hoc prophetic anticipation" of events since their original publication. It seems to me that one shouldn't commit article space to what's uninteresting about the Tanner's work (not much of interest in the Book of Mormon changes), but rather to what's interesting about it (the Doctrine and Covenants changes). (User:

While I agree with your assessment of the drasticness of the changes (Dont know if I'd call them dramatic, momentous or amusing), and having read most of them in detail in addition to first-hand accounts on why they were changed, the plain fact of the matter is that the changes in the Book of Mormon get more attention by those interested in Anti-Mormon work. If you were to look at the hit pages on the Tanner's web site, my guess is that the Book or Mormon changes articles more than double the amount of hits that articles on the changes in the Book of Commandments. Therefore, its inclusion in this article, although it may be boring to some, must be interesting to others and therefore is significant, since it is still frequently requested research. You may want to read primary sources as to why the changes were made, when they were planned to be changed, and then look at pre-publication manuscripts for added changes/similarities with both the BoC and D&C. I think you will find this most interesting if this is truly of this much interest and "amusing" to you.
With that said, please feel free to add in the content you feel is important. That is the point of Wikipedia. Add it in. Happy editing. -Visorstuff 18:55, 4 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Clean-up: Restructuring and minor edits[edit]

Well one way or the other you guys have done a decent job on this article! I have only had to do a little of the above to make the article read a little better and now I think it's OK. It doesnt come across to someone more or less ignorant of the subject (ie. me) as biased one way or the other really. Marcus22 11:13, 9 November 2005 (UTC)

Removed also 'they have been called professional Anti-Mormons' because there is no cite, nor record of who is doing the calling. DJ Clayworth 20:06, 2 October 2006 (UTC)

I don't really care too much whether this is included - but it is clearly citable - starting with Tanner's own book on the spalding, where he doesn't refute the claim that he is an anti-Mormon publisher, and includes references in the book including an AP wire story referenced to the Ogden Standard-Examiner, July 8, 1977, which stated "Jerald Tanner, a Salt Lake City anti-Mormon publisher, says he was allowed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) on Thursday to see documents ..." I have seen it elsewhere, but probably on fair, or farms - which would probably not be good resources. But the Tanner's themselves, traditionally, did not deny the appellation.[4] --Trödel 20:48, 2 October 2006 (UTC)


If you look at this article the section on 'Criticism' is longer than the section on what it is they actually say. That is a clear sign that the article is unbalenced. People come here to find out about Jerald and Sandra Tanner, not about accusations leveled against them by the church they used to belong to. I'm not arguing that there should be no criticism, but surely we can find more information about what they say. DJ Clayworth 17:25, 2 October 2006 (UTC)

I can agree with that - their preservation of early mormon texts, their original skepticism of the salamander letter and other research has been much welcome - by Mormons and non-Mormons alike. I don't agree with them, nor do I think they do a great job of historical writing (ie - leading the reader), but they have good points as well. I've run into them personally a few times, and they are very personable. however, the criticism section is quite accurate. I'll see what I can dig u p on the other side, and encourage others to do the same. -Visorstuff 17:31, 2 October 2006 (UTC)
If nothing else, a summary of what their main books say would be useful. Interestingly a google search for their books turns up virtually nothing except criticisms of those books by Mormons. Anti-Mormonism may not be a growth industry, but Anti-anti-Mormonism is certainly thriving. DJ Clayworth 17:48, 2 October 2006 (UTC)

On the contrary - they do quite well - especially with advanced church critics. However, the issue is that their books are typically less-sensational and more historically founded, and use primary documents rather than repeating of secondary sources, so the typical church critic won't read their work as it is too dry, and not juicy enough. They actually develop their arguments rather than just giving questions to be asked, and alluding to a "cover-up" which is the current Anti-Mormon trend. Plus, they are still Christian, whereas most who who leave mormonism and become critics become irreligious for a time. I think if you google differently, you'll find much more on their work. -Visorstuff 18:02, 2 October 2006 (UTC)

If you'd like to point me at any serious reviews of their work that would be great. DJ Clayworth 18:49, 2 October 2006 (UTC)

I think you'll find some of the un-"serious" reivews by FARMS and FAIR as scholarly disagreements with outcomes. Yes, many of the FARMS works personally attack their reseearch and methodology, but here's some sites that discuss the good that the Tanners have done in Mormon hisotry. That said, I was trying to find a Jan Shipps quote about them, but can't seem to find it as of now. Anyhoo, the following are sites, both critical and not, that discuss what the tanners have done that is good. [5], [6], [7], a bit later in this one [8].

Each of the above give a brief overview of why the Mormonism community (both pro and anti) is grateful for their research - the Mormon History Association, John Whitmer Association and other historical associations are probalby a good place to get some positive views of their research from non-Mormons interested in Mormon history. -Visorstuff 21:17, 2 October 2006 (UTC)

I appreciate those links, and I'll have a look. What I was really looking for was an overview, or a review, of Shadow or Reality, but I've only been able to find reviews by Mormons or Mormon organisations (which are, surprise, highly critical of it). DJ Clayworth 16:01, 3 October 2006 (UTC)

The criticism section of this article has more space devoted to support of the tanners than it does to criticism of them. Being biased/non-neutral in the main article is one thing, but to have the majority of the criticism section filled w/ their praises can't possibly be considered neutral.

That jumped out at me as well. (talk) 05:37, 23 August 2009 (UTC)

Biography assessment rating comment[edit]

The article may be improved by following the WikiProject Biography 11 easy steps to producing at least a B article. --KenWalker | Talk 07:17, 22 June 2007 (UTC)