Fireside With Sandra Tanner - Part 2

Uploaded by aaronshaf2006 on 13.09.2010

OK, so the question is about when I had my name removed from the Mormon rolls.
I had my name removed before I gave up the Book of Mormon. I accepted Christ in October of 1959 and we
{Jerald and I} were married in June of 1959. It wasn't until June of 1960 that I decided
to take my name off of the roll.
One of the pushes for this was due to conversations with my family where they would say, "Well,
it's easy for you guys to say that you don't need Mormonism, but I notice that your names
are still on the rolls." There was this implied thing that we weren't really sure or that
we had doubts or that we were hedging our bets and that we were going to keep our foot
in both sides just in case. So I finally decided that I don't want anyone to misunderstand
what I'm saying. I am firmly committed that I don't need Mormonism to be right with God.
So I asked for my name to be taken off the rolls.
My stake president had at one time been my bishop. He was a really sweet guy and my mom
and I had talked to him about me taking my name off the rolls and he said, "Well, she
has to go through her bishop." We were then living in an area where I didn't know the
bishop. He told me one day, "Sandra, I want you to know that if you change your mind that
I can work things out to get you back into the church again." I said to him that that
was real sweet of him, but no, I won't be coming back.
The first time I met my bishop at this new ward was when I went in for my termination
of membership. I knew his daughter whilst in college, but I didn't know him. He was
a nice guy.
For "bishop's court," two men came to my house and served me. It was like being served warrant
papers. They came out to my houuse and served me papers that I was called to a bishop's
hearing. So I go to this meeting. It was just me alone. When you're being disciplined like
this you don't bring witnesses. [To someone in audience] Sure they do! Yeah, it's done.
Well, I don't know if they serve you papers, but in the 50's, it was just like getting
court papers. I got a paper summoning me to bishop's court. I mean, I asked for my name
to be taken off, and they're serving me papers that I'm going to be tried for my membership.
So I went and met with the bishop. It was the bishop, his two counselors, and the ward
clerk, so it was four-to-one. I came with a number of.. like, Journal of Discourses
and early books so I could show them the problems I was having, why I didn't believe it anymore.
So, I told the bishop I wanted to explain why I wanted my name off - because I couldn't
believe these things. And the bishop's comment to me was "Mrs. Tanner, the church is not
on trial, you are. And we don't need to see what's in any of the books. All we're here
to determine is whether or not you have a testimony of the church and of Joseph Smith."
And I said, "Well, you already knew where that was before I ever came, you know?" He
said, "Well, we have to establish it for the record."
He says, "I have a letter here that your husband wrote to your ward teacher. Do you agree with
the sentiments in this letter. I said, "I don't know, I've never seen the letter." And
he says "well, read it", and he hands me the letter. And so I'm sitting there reading this
letter, and... we went through several ward teachers, because Jerald would get in these
big discussions with them, and the next month we'd have a new one... anyway, to one of them
Jerald had sent this letter, explaining to him his problems with the church.
So, the bishop has me read this letter, and I get through it and he says, "OK, do you
agree with the sentiments in that letter?" I said, "Yeah, I guess so." So he turns to
the ward clerk and says "Put that in the record, she agreed with that." That's one of the evidences,
see, of my "apostasy." So, then after they felt they'd established my apostasy, the bishop
says, "From this point on, you have forfeited your right to the Kingdom of God." And, I
said, "I have a question." He says, "We aren't here to argue." I said "No, I think I'd like
just a little clarification on what I'm giving up here. When you say I'm giving up the Kingdom
of God, am I giving up heaven, the whole thing, or am I giving up the Celestial Kingdom, the
Terrestrial Kingdom, or the Telestial Kingdom, or the whole thing? Just so we're clear here."
He hem-hawed around, and finally said, "Well, it's the Celestial Kingdom, you're giving
up the Celestial Kingdom." "Fine, ok, I just want to know what's on the table here." Then
he says, "Is it okay? From this moment on, you are no longer a member of the church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. From this moment on, the church will no longer accept
your tithing." And I'm like, "What? OK! That sounds fair." [answers audience "No refund".]
I mean they were nice guys, and my bishop was very sincere and he was very shaken, I
was the first person he'd ever excommunicated. And he took it very seriously. I felt sorry
that he felt so burdened by all of this, because I didn't. But he obviously took it very seriously,
what he was doing here. So when we got up and said our goodbyes, I said, "I just want
you all to know, that if I were to be struck down by lightening right now, I am NOT worried
about standing in the presence of God as an ex-communicated Mormon. My faith is not in
any of those things. My faith is in Christ." And, of course, they're giving me, Oh, they
feel so sorry me, I'm giving up the true church, and I just don't know what I'm doing, and
blah blah blah.
But, that's before I gave up the Book of Mormon. Like I say, though, because we still believed
the Book of Mormon, my family had hopes that we would repent and come back. But I knew
that at the point of giving up the Book of Mormon, they'd think "all hope's lost." I'm
never coming back at this point.
[Audience member asks: What about Jerald?] Jerald thought that his membership had been
terminated before we got married. He had told his bishop before he had met me to take his
name off the roll. The bishop had said he'd take care of it, and he never did. So we weren't
aware that he was still a member until we moved back to Salt Lake in 1960. Jerald didn't
have a job, and we were living with his folks, which put us right back in the same ward that
he had been in as a teenager, and his sisters came home from the wardhouse one day, and
said, "Jerald, did you realize your name is still on the roll at church?" So then he contacted
the bishop again, and found out, no, it wasn't off. So he told him, "I want it off" and the
bishop says, "You have to write a letter." so he wrote a letter, saying he wanted his
name dropped from membership. So he received a letter... I assume it came in the mail,
I don't remember if someone hand-delivered his like mine or not... but anyway, he got
a letter, stating that bishop's court would be had on this certain date, to try him on
his membership, and that he could bring witnesses. Jerald's thinking, "Oh, Ok."
His mom, and myself, and his aunt, who was now on her way out of Mormonism, and his mom
who was on her way out of Mormonism, three of us went down to the wardhouse with Jerald.
And when we got down to the wardhouse, the bishop was kind of taken aback that Jerald
had these people with him. He says, "Why do you have these people with you?" and Jerald
says, "Well, it said I could bring witnesses." And the bishop says, "Well, that's only if
you're contesting it, not if want your name off. They can't come in!" Jerald says, "Well,
it says in the letter I can have witnesses." "No, that's only if they're here to testify
in your behalf, for you to stay a member. They can't come in!" So we sat out in the
lobby right outside the bishop's office, but could hear what was going on because it all
got so loud.
So, the bishop's reading to Jerald the charges of apostasy against him - that he was preaching
another gospel that said that Mormonism wasn't true, and... I don't remember what all they
said, but... then the bishop says something to the effect of "Do you plead - are you guilty
of wrong-doing?" And Jerald said "No!" And the bishop and all were like "What? Well,
you're the guy who asked for all of this, what do you mean, no?" And he said, "Well,
I'm not going to plead guilty to wrong-doing. I'll agree that's my sentiment, but I'm not
going to say I'm pleading to wrong-doing in stating this. I just don't believe it, but
I don't believe it's wrong to do that!"
So then the bishop and the counselors have this big discussion about whether they can
proceed if he won't plead guilty to wrong-doing. And it gets into this big discussion. And
finally they say, "Ok, we're all agreed that you want it done, that you are an apostate
and you don't believe in any of it." He says, "Well, yeah, sure." "Ok, that's good enough,
we don't have to say it's wrong-doing." So then they proceed to talk to him about ex-communication.
Jerald WAS able to talk to the bishop some about why he didn't believe it, and it got
into a big hairy argument, it just... i mean, it was a long evening. And you could hear
it through the door - he was going to take his stand against those four guys. And there
was no wrong-doing, the church was wrong, Joseph [Smith] had changed everything, and
he's just really going at it.
Well, anyway, the end-result of all of that was that he was excommunicated. And our letters
from our bishops are printed in the back of our book, "Mormonism, Shadow or Reality?"
where it states that we were put out for teaching false doctrine. There are no moral charges
in either of our letters; they relate to the fact that we were teaching false doctrine.
False doctrine was the crisis enough you didn't have to have Mormonism.
[Audience member asks: Will you talk about the rumors?] Which rumors? [Why you left,
the big ones] Well, at that time, they weren't as big as they got later. My family - both
of our families kind of assumed we were leaving the church because we were young people that
wanted to break the Word of Wisdom. I mean, Jerald had been drinking and smoking as a
teen-ager, and so there was this assumption that if he was leaving the church at this
point, it must be because he wants to go back to his old ways. Jerald and I were not drinking,
smoking, or anything! There was kind of this, waiting for the other shoe to fall, waiting
for us to go into this life of sin so they could say, "See I told you, that's why they
wanted out!" But no, we were just going to church, a Christian church, going along talking
about Jesus - and none of these dire things happened.
Eventually... I worked at Sears at the time, taking credit applications; I sat out in the
walkway where customers were walking by me all the time. So, here comes this lady from
my ward by, oh, she'd heard I'd left the church, this was just terrible; And she says, "Oh,
I just want to know who it was that hurt your feelings." I said, "Well, no one hurt my feelings!"
"Well, yes, someone..." "No, I don't have any problems with anyone in the ward." "Ahhh,
then you have a problem with the Word of Wisdom, it must be." I said, "No I don't have a problem
with the Word of Wisdom." "No, it has to be somethin; obviously there's moral infraction.
You and your husband must have very very deep moral infractions to leave the church." Because
there couldn't have been any good reason for it, we couldn't have left for any intellectual
reason, from study, from research, for prayer, nothing - it had to be sin. Some way, there
was a secret sin in your life that hadn't been confessed.
Through the years, this is the common thing I get from Mormons who email me or call me
- they want to know what the big sin was in our life that drove us out of Mormonism.
I say "No, it didn't have any to do with any of those things. It was from studying Mormon
scriptures, seeing they didn't agree with the Bible, seeing that the Book of Mormon
taught different than the Doctrine and Covenants, seeing the changes that were made through
the history of the church; it just didn't stack up as a work of God. "Nope, can't be
that, there's secret sin there some where." Then, there's been the stories that we really
were secret polygamists, and just.. every story you want to talk about, they've, at
some point or other, thrown at us.
(Question?)..No, but it was a long time... Talking about seeing the first person come
to faith in Christ... the first few, the first many years out of Mormonism, there was no
success. Well, I shouldn't put it that way. We talked with many people that were also
struggling and seeking, but it was a long time before we really saw someone come to
faith in Christ. That has grown, through the years, as others have come into the ministry
as well as us, that we see all of our ministries working together, to be part of the puzzle
of someone's life, to help them come to faith in Christ. Like Paul talks about, one plants
and another waters and that. And that's what we see in the different ministries. We all
have different aspects of how we are dealing with Mormon people, and it's wonderful to
see how God dovetails all those different efforts together. Like, someone, for instance,
like you guys down at Temple Square. Someone may be told at Temple Square about us, and
they come to us, and we may be able to tell them about some church they can go to, and
then maybe that minister will lead the person to Christ. And so you get this.. all parts
of God's work in a person's life. I don't see myself as the only factor in someone becoming
a Christian; it's many different people feeding into that person's life, til when it finally
(Question?) The question was, How early did we discern that God was calling us into this
full-time work? Um, boy, I don't know. That took many years to come to that. Because,
at first, it was a personal quest, and then it was trying to answer our family and friends,
that was the motivation. It wasn't something, like we envisioned this being a full time
work. As the need was there, the people we were talking to.. trying to get the information
into their hands, and it just kept getting more involved. And we started getting more
people in our family that we were talking to about these issues. And at first, we were
giving everything away free. We were printing up all of these little tracts and things and
we just gave them out free to everybody. And a friend of ours that ran a little used bookstore
that's now folded, told us, "You know, if you'd put even just a dime or quarter charge
on that, you could distribute a lot more through the bookstore."
was through that man's encouragement to put some sort of little charge on... He says,
"People don't know you're there, they're not going to come to your house. If you could
put it in the bookstore, more people would see it." That was the start of doing this..
working towards the point of doing it full time. And like I said, when we first set up
Modern Microfilm, it was, not even then, the sense of setting up a ministry. It was just
this drive to provide the information for everybody to see, for the common man to be
able to see what the real history was.
[Question: Since that started, what are some high and low points... things that just stand
out?] Well, in the 60's, we had the whole thing with the Book of Abraham papyrii, and
that was an important thing. Then in, you had all the research on Joseph Smith's 26th
trial, and the magic and money-digging stuff. And then, of course, in the 80's, you get
to Mark Hoffman and all that stuff becomes very involved. Um... I don't remember what
happened in the 90's, but every decade has been some major story that shapes the research
for many years around it. God has seen fit to place us in the middle of most everything
that's happened for the last 50 years. And so it doesn't matter what you read about,
somewhere you're probably going to come across our name as some way involved in the whole
When we first did our big, fat, "Mormonism, Shadow or Reality?" book, when we did the
first version of it, my aunt who had come out of Mormonism at this point, came over
to the house. She got her first copy and she was laughing. She says, "Well, that sure puts
to rest the story that an uneducated boy couldn't write a 500 page book." - referring to Jerald as the uneducated boy
that had now written this huge book on Mormonism. Little slow. But yeah, I explained to him
I look back over my life and I'm amazed at how just two dumb young kids, just through
personal research and not being satisfied with a simplistic answer, who kept pressing
"no, there's got to be more to the story"... it's amazing to me how God has used us because
we were just a couple of dumb kids that didn't know any better. I mean, we bought a printing
press and it came with an instruction manual...
Well, the first low points were with all the dissention within the family. That just knocks
all the props out from under you when you lose all your family, you have no support
system. It was just me and Jerald, and thank God for Jerald! I don't know if I could have
done it alone. That the two of us had each other to lean on at those times when everyone
turned their back on you, everyone opposed you, everyone said "you're wrong",,, those
were really tough years. But, you know, who was it, Luther? Who said, "Here I stand, and
I can do no other." That's the way we felt - this is what's true, I can't go back on
it. I have to state and stand up for what's true.
Lawsuits? Yeah - we had a BYU guy sue us when we printed Wayne? Clayton diary extracts,
claiming he had copyright interests in it, and that got into a big hairy lawsuit that
we lost - a federal copyright lawsuit - we lost the first go around here in Utah, the
federal judge here was Mormon and ruled against us. We appealed to the Denver appeal court
and got it reversed. Then the Mormon Church sued us in 2000 for copyright infringement,
and that one ended up kind of a draw; as it turned out, it would have involved them in
a huge internet lawsuit. Internet law is very little established, and the judges don't understand
the internet. I mean, the judge didn't even understand, in the paperwork, when the different
websites would be put in, that they would be highlighted when you typed it out on a
computer. She thought the lawyer was making a big issue, always making an emphasis of
this in the paperwork, and he's trying to explain to her, "No, when you type it on the
computer, that's the way it comes out."
(Question?) Oh, the 2000 lawsuit was over - we had so many people ask us, "How do I
get my name off the Mormon rolls?" that I thought, ok, we need to help these people
know what you're supposed to do. In most churches, you can just call up and say "I quit" and
the pastor will say "Okay, we'll strike your name from the roll." But in Mormonism, they
make you go thorugh all these hoops, and if you don't do it right, they don't take your
name off. And I keep getting all these complaints from people, "I told them to take my name
off and I keep getting this big run around and everything." And I said, "Well, you've
got to do it right." No one knew what to do, so I put up on our internet site a chapter
out of the church handbook of instruction. Most every church has a handbook on how they
handle discipline or whatever, structure for their church, but they don't keep it secret.
The average member can see what the church guidelines are, but in Mormonism, it's secret.
I shouldn't say secret; it's restricted to a very small group.
So, there's a chapter in there on how to handle people that are going to be excommunicated,
or have asked for their name to be taken off, or whatever. What the ramifications are, how
it affects their temple sealing, and all these things. So I thought, well, I'll just put
that chapter up on our website. We weren't selling anything. I'll just put that chapter
up, people will see what the requirements are, see how it works, see what the ramifications
are - and then we put up a little thing explaining how to write your letter and all of this.
It never occurred to me that this would be some big problem for the church. But two lawyers
in expensive black suits come down to the bookstore one day, handing me these papers,
serving me court papers. And I say, "My word, what's this for?" and they say "Oh, just read
the papers, you'll see." It was a copyright lawsuit over us putting up the handbook.
Well, we felt that we had not violated the copyright because the handbook had been through
many editions; we felt that whatever copyright interest they might have would only be for
the current wording, not for past wording when it wasn't covered by copyright. So we
felt that we could have won in the intracasies of copyright law. But in the process of this,
we put up on our website a guy's letter where he said, "Well, I don't know why the Mormons
are suing you, this other guy's got the whole handbook on his site, and he's not getting
sued." And in his letter, he had the web address. Now, this was not a hot link. When we put
the letter on our website, you would have had to cut and paste to have gone there, you
couldn't have just clicked on this part of his letter, and gone to the website. But we
got hauled back into court for defying the judge's order to take all this handbook stuff
off our website. The judge felt that by putting in that letter, we were trying to run around
her decision. Our lawyer was trying to explain that it was not a hot link, but just part
of a letter. The Tribune had printed the story up; the New York Times had printed the story
up. They had had HOT LINKS to this site that had the whole church handbook, they aren't
hauled into court. Ours wasn't an active link!
Anyway, she hands down this ruling, saying that you cannot even refer someone to a website
that has copyright-infringing material on it without also incurring guilt yourself,
in copyright violation. If her ruling would have stood, it would have meant no one would
have dared give a link - no link to any site would have been legal because you all would
have been worried about being accused of copyright [infringement] from the other guy's site.
So we appealed this in the appeals court in Denver, on this whole thing. This stopped
the whole preliminary... getting ready for depositions and stuff for the copyright lawsuit
on this side issue of links - of whether giving that link on our website was an infraction
against the judge's injunction against us. If her ruling would have stood, it would have
about stopped the internet. I think at this point, the church realized they had the alligator
by the tail, and how do you let go? They don't want to win a case that's going to ruin the
internet and make everybody in the world mad at them. And so they have to figure out a
way to get rid of the trial, the whole hearing, the whole thing, because it's going to hurt
them more than it would help them. [Audience member says: it would bring more attention
to..] oh yeah, be written up in every law book and everything.
I'm trying to think of how this all works out... there's a court negotiator that tries
to limit how many cases come through because the courts are so backed-up. The court negotiator
wants to know if there is some way that we can do an out-of-court settlement, without
going to court. I said, "Hey, I'm all for that, but there are two conditions here. I
will not plead guilty to any wrong-doing, and I won't pay the church any money. But
I'll settle out. Find out what they want, but those two aren't happening." So after
all this negotiation between all the lawyers, they come back and the church's stipulation
is that we have to destroy all our copies of the church handbook. Because I had one
for... I must have had 20 editions of it. I talked to my lawyer about that, and he says,
"Just give them to somebody. On the day that the action is to take place, all you need
is one copy; destroy that one. Before that, just give your copies away." So Bill McKeever
has all my old editions of the church handbook. Yes, he does. Yeah, I had to destroy one.
I think we put it through the shredder or something. Yeah, a big bonfire would have
been fun. And I had to take it off of my computer, and I had to take it out of my files. When
I talked to my lawyer about it, he says, "Look at the wording there. There's nothing that
says you can't own one tomorrow. Just this particular day, you have to destroy any copies
you have. And you have to take it off your computer and out of your files. It doesn't
say that tomorrow you can't get all you want." I said, "Oh, Ok, I can live with that."
And then it stipulated that I couldn't use more than 50 words at a time in any one article,
quoting from the handbook. And I thought, "this is stupid, because this is real restrictive.
This is far more restrictive then any copyright interpretation would give you." But I thought,
well, how much do I want to write about the church handbook anyway? The funny thing is,
I could have done the whole Church handbook 50 words at a time. I would just have to write
different articles. But I could eventually work through my way the whole thing if I wanted,
you know. I thought, OK, I can stipulate that I won't quote more than fifty words, at one
time in any one article, from the Church handbook. It had those kinds of things
in it...
Before Godmakers 2 came out there was this fellow here in Salt Lake, last name of Van
Dam, that was a used car salesman at one time in Utah. And he claimed that he had been involved
in orgies up on the East side of Salt Lake in some home up there and that Gordon B. Hinckley
had come to these, that he had hookers, that he had blacks hookers, and gay people. And
it was just all of these wild things that were supposedly happening in this home. So
people in Provo got on the bandwagon and were really promoting this. There were a lot of
informal videos done of a lot of people that supposedly had been part of these parties,
but you have to realize that all of these were 20 years beforehand. So you're relying
on hookers' statements, 20 years after the fact, on people that were there participating
in these parties, 20 years after the fact, that they remembered Gordon Hinckley being
Now this guy was a used car salesman, we verified that. We verified the house, and those things.
The problem was verifying that the events could have happened as he said. The mention
was made of the Hinckley car dealership here in town, that people from there were involved,
and I don't know whether they were or weren't, but the question comes up, "Did you have the
right Hinckley?" Maybe some Hinckley showed up at some wild parties on the east side,
that doesn't prove that it's Gordon. And our thought was, "How would an apostle dare be
involved in things that risque at the very time the church was under the gun, for one
thing, on black issues? That they would be having black prostitutes up there, in an area
where he'd have to be known - would he really risk that? Is it likely that he'd also being
going to gay parties, at this same place that they're having these black women hookers coming
- you know, it's all just a lot of mixed things, that you wonder, does this sound reasonable
at all that this could be going on?
Well, we looked into the different people that were interviewed in all of this, and
we determined that these weren't credible enough people. This guy Van Dam, we looked
into some of his story, we talked to people that had worked with him in the used car industry,
and we just didn't find him a credible witness. There were things that we felt were contradictory
in his story; we just didn't think it was trustworthy. Well, the next thing I know,
here comes Godmakers 2, and it's got all this stuff about Hinckley in it. And I thought,
this is just too much rumor and innuendo, based on some very questionable peoples' stories.
I mean, you could go down to some prostitution areas in Salt Lake today, and I guarantee
you could find people who'd swear to anything about any of you. So how much credibility
are we going to give these people where you don't have specific proofs? You don't have
real details and documents on this. We were opposed to using this; it was too questionable.
Besides that part of the Godmakers number 2, you had the story of Lillian Chenowith,
who had been part of the LeBaron polygamist group in Mexico. LeBaron was crazy, and he
started getting his followers to commit murders for him. Some of the family fled, and some
of the family ended up down in Texas - people from this group - and LeBaron followers were
after these people, killed some of them. There were several killed down in Texas. And this
one lady that was from this family, many of her relatives - her brother and her husband
and a number of her family had all been killed by the LeBaron crazies, she says in this film,
"If anything ever happens to me, I hold the Mormon Church personally responsible for my
death." And then in the film it says, "And three days later she was found shot in her
bedroom." Well, the implication when you watch this film is that the Mormon Church had her
killed. In actual fact, she committed suicide. We checked into all of this, we talked to
(I think it was) the Dallas police, and they said, "No, it's a clear case of suicide."
She was very upset, distressed over all that had happened with her family, what was hanging
over her own head, and she cracked under the weight of the whole thing and shot herself.
But the way they used it - I thought it was a very powerful interview if they had used
it right, if they'd have presented the story in it's real context... but to use it in such
a way that it implied that the Mormon Church sought her out and killed her was a total
misuse of the story.
So we came out against the film, that it was irresponsible, it had a lot of innuendo. It
was making claims that weren't substantiated; it was just the whole wrong way of approaching
things. It caused a real controversy in the Christian community; many of us, many of the
Christian community felt we were out of line, that we should have never questioned these
things, we should have never brought it up; we were dividing the body. And we said, "no,
any time we misrepresent things, that's what divides the body. Truth does not divide the
body. The problem is those who would bring forth something that isn't true. Just as we've
stood against those who've taught untruths in Mormonism, we have the same obligation
for our fellow believers, that we stand for truth. You don't excuse untruth on your own
side, and stand in judgment of the Mormons for them lying. Not that I'm saying they were
lying, in the Godmakers, but they misused the information; I didn't think it was reliable.
And it misdirected a lot of... I had people calling me from New York, scared to death
to leave Mormonism because they were afraid the Mormons were going to kill them! It had
this kind of effect on people. It hindered people coming out of Mormonism, not helped.
(Question?) There was a time when - there've been times when there was concern for safety.
For one thing, when we first printed the temple ceremony back in the 60's, we didn't know
what the reprecussions would be from that, and we were worried that someone would try
to burn the house down. There were times that people called us that were afraid for our
safety, and felt that there were people that were going to come harm us. I've had ???
people in the bookstore that were volatile, that could've harmed me. And I believe that
God has singularly blessed Jerald and I to keep us protected through the years. We have
never had any serious vandalism, any serious damage or bodily injury, or anything.. lawsuits,
but that's just money, I mean, that's not physical fear or danger. We don't live in
the best part of town, we live right downtown where plenty of bad things happen. We've found
drunks in the driveway when we've come home from basketball games, and had to call the
police to come haul them away. It's not the best neighborhood, but God has watched over
us and protected us through the years.
[Audience member: Can you talk about how you suspected the Hoffman forgeries, while the
church was condoning them?] When Mark first started with his documents, no one knew how
many of them were coming out. Because a lot of his document-dealings were private. If
everything had been known about his dealings, then I'm sure questions would have arisen
a lot earlier, because one would think, "How does this guy find all these things?" But
because they didn't come out in the newspaper, we weren't aware how many he was doing. At
first we thought they were all authentic - wow, isn't this amazing that he found these
things. But when this, what they call the Salamander Letter came out, which is several
years into the whole deal, when that one came out and we got rumors - on the phone people
would say "oh, did you hear about this?"... and when finally someone read to Jerald, over
the phone, the Salamander Letter, he said, "I need to have a copy of this to research
this further." And then when he finally got a typescript of it, he started studying, because
he's looking for all the supports for this. This will be great because this shows Joseph
Smith's involvement with magic at the time of doing the Book of Mormon. So it would be
very damaging to the Mormon story.
But the more he read through, and started doing his research on it, he realized there
were phrases in the Salamander letter that sounded like things from an early anti-Mormon
book, E.D.Howe's "Mormonism Unveiled," printed in 1834. There were phrases in there - he
says, "These are the phrases coming out of this book." And then, there were phrases in
it, that he says, "These sound like quotes... " There was an article done in the BYU Studies
in 1978 or something, about a guy named Joseph Knight who was an early convert into Mormonism.
[Audience asks question] No, I think it's Joseph Knight. Anyway, this guy Knight, was
an early acquaintance of Joseph Smith's in the New York period. And he relayed some stuff
that Martin Harris had told him. And Martin Harris is supposedly the guy who writes the
Salamander Letter. In E.D.Howe's "Mormonism Unveiled," there's people telling things about
things that Martin Harris said (Martin is one of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon).
So Jerald says, "There's things in this letter that echo too closely these other sources.
This Salamander Letter has to be drawn from these other sources." I said, "Jerald, maybe
it's the other way around, they're all supposed to be coming from things Harris said, so maybe
E.D.Howe and Knight's letter sound the same because they heard the same things Harris
is saying in this letter. How can you be sure which direction this is going? He says, "No,
I can absolutely tell you the Salamander Letter came last. It's using these sources."
Jerald wanted to go public, and print all this, and I said, "Jerald, we're going to
be in a lawsuit, we're going to lose our house and everything. Mark's going to sue us! You
can't just go around calling people forgerers when everybody's accepting his documents!"
And he says, "He's not going to sue us; the guy is making them up!" I said, "Jerald, how
can you be sure?" and he says, "I'm as sure as I've ever been of anything. He's making
this up." So he went into print, and I went down to the Sunstone Symposium in, I think
it was '84. The murders happened in '85.. a year before the murders, I'm down there
handing out these little papers that Jerald's written up, questioning Mark's documents.
The wonder is that we didn't get blown up.
But no one paid attention to us, because everyone was buying Mark's documents, everyone thought
they were authentic. The church was buying Mark's documents. They had had Dean Jessee
of the Historical Department look them over and Jessee thought they looked like authentic
paper and everything - whatever tests he did, he felt they were genuine. I said, "Jerald,
the church wouldn't want to accept these; if they think they're authentic, they must
be authentic. That's not something they want." And he says, "I don't care what anybody says.
They aren't authentic; they aren't true."
And... oh, after I passed those papers out, that was on a weekend, at Sunstone. And Monday,
Mark was down at the bookstore and he says, "Sandra! You guys of all people! How could
you question my documents? You guys are.." Oh yeah, Mark came and talked to me, he talked
to me at different times. So Mark's down there, how could I do this, while he's right in the
middle of buying this big collection from Bullock - you know the McLellin collection
which he didn't really have. So he's telling me about all the McLellin collection he's
just about to buy, and I'm jeopardizing the sale, and Bullock has all this stuff in it.
Mark knew just how to focus in to try to appeal to you on your vulnerable part, of wanting
to believe him. He knows I'm a descendent of Brigham Young, and so he says, "Yeah, the
Bullock collection has got all this stuff about Brigham Young's finances, and Bullock's
questioning Brigham's handling of the money, and it's got all this stuff to show how Brigham
misused funds. We've just gotta get hold of this stuff so you guys have got to lay low
on this until I can get this collection bought. And he's going on and on, giving me this big
sales pitch.
So then, later, when Jerald came in, I don't remember where he'd been that day, but he
came back in and I said, "Oh, Jerald, you missed Mark! He was in telling me this Bullock
collection." and I'm telling him all this stuff about what's going to be in the papers
about the Brigham Young estate and all this money that was misused, and on and on and
on. And Jerald's just standing in our kitchen, going, "Yeah, yeah yeah" and he says, "Yeah,
and I've got a bridge in Brooklyn." I said, "No, Jerald..." And he says, "Sandra! This
guy's putting you on. It's all stories; none of this is true." I said, "Jerald, everybody
in the state believes Mark Hoffman's documents!" He said, "I don't care; they aren't true."
Well, he ended up being right, but because he was Apostate Jerald, no one paid attention.
They all went with Dean Jessee. The church has no problem; so they [the documents] must
be ok. So yeah, it was one of those weird things; and that's why we're written up in
all the books on Mark Hoffman because we were kinda like the man-bites-dog story. Here's
the one guy you'd expect would jump on all of Mark's documents and says, "Tada! See we're
right! Here's the stuff that disproves Joseph Smith!" and instead, here's Jerald saying,
"I don't think this stuff's true." It's not the historians that are saying it's not true.
at the Mormon Church. It's Jerald saying they're not true. Oh, yeah, so the BYU guys are explaining
how wonderful the salamander is, this animal in the fire, this is like an angel, and they're
doing all kind of wonderful spin on the story of how this could be true.... Ah man, yeah,
the 80's were really wild.
Oh yeah, Ok, Do I miss Bruce McConkie? Yes, it was so nice to have somebody who would
stand up for what they would believe and say it clearly. And own up to it all! Then you
could do a clear presentation of saying, "This is what the Mormons believe, this is what
the Bible says, they aren't the same thing." And now, everybody back-pedals on doctrine.
You can't get anyone to stand behind anything. I mean, not even Joseph Smith or the Doctrine
and Covenants - the guys down at FAIR and FARMS - you give them a Joseph Smith statement
and they say "Oh well, that was just Joseph's opinion." I'm like, "What? What do you mean
JUST JOSEPH'S OPINION? This is a prophet of God!" So yeah, it was nice to have somebody
that would clearly state what they really believe. And today, it's not politically correct
to state clearly what Mormon Doctrine is. Everyone has this real fuzzy outline, and
it's like grabbing Jello on a warm day. Nothing is pinned down; nothing's for sure. Everything's
negotiable. At least with Bruce, with Boyd Packer, and with Mark E Peterson, you had
clear statements of [LDS] beliefs. Today, it's the "church is true, and don't sweat
the details." Everything gets muddied.