Fireside With Sandra Tanner - Part 1

Uploaded by aaronshaf2006 on 13.09.2010

I come from a fifth generation Mormon family. My mother and father both were raised Mormon
and married in the Salt Lake Temple, and I am a direct descendant of Brigham Young. My
mother's maiden name was Young and my line comes down through Brigham Young and his son,
Brigham Young, Jr., who was an apostle and president of the Quorum of the Twelve at the
turn of the last century. He missed being president of the Church because he died younger
than most of them. He had a son, Walter, who was my grandpa. So I grew up with a lot of
pioneer stories, and my polygamous great-grandma, who was married to Brigham Young, Jr., was
still alive when I was a young girl. She died when I was about eleven. Visiting her when
we we'd come to Salt Lake on summer vacations, she would have wonderful stories about how
God protects the polygamists. That when the law was coming out in the 1880's and 90's
to get after the Mormons who were still living polygamy that Brigham Young, Jr. would have
to go into hiding.
So, that's the kind of stories that, besides the Pioneer ones of coming west and everything…
When my mother went through the Salt Lake temple when she got married, she was disturbed
by some of the aspects of the temple ritual. She was already aware of garments and all
that; my grandparents always wore them. Those of you who've been through the temple know
you don't know the details before you go through. Back when she went through it would have been
the 1930's, and they were still doing the old blood oaths and everything, so it was
all very confusing to her. I think that was the start, really, of her doubts on Mormonism.
Then, when I was in grammar school, my folks were still wearing their garments at that
time, but they'd moved to Southern California because of defense work at World War II. That
brought them out of the Mormon environment, down in Southern California where everyone
wasn't Mormon. It gave them a whole new perspective of life, where you were a little free from
everyone knowing what you should and shouldn't do and that sort of thing.
My mother and my grandmother and my mother's older sister, at some point, read Fawn Brodie's
book, "No Man Knows My History." That started them searching and studying and wondering
how much of what they tell you in Sunday School really can be checked out. So they started
haunting all the used bookstores, trying to collect early Mormon sources to try to verify
what Brodie said. So when I'm in Jr. High and High School, my mother is full-blown into
researching on all of this and questioning Mormonism. By this point, my parents had quit
wearing their garments; my mom quit first and then my dad followed because what's the
point if your wife isn't faithful then it doesn't do them any good, so he quit wearing
In about 1955, I think it was, the polygamists brought out a photo reprint of the Journal
of Discourses, and this is a 26 volume set of the early sermons of the church leaders
– of Brigham Young and John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff and various leaders. The
Mormon Church had let it go out of print about the turn of the century. The polygamists believe
all the stuff in the Journal of Discourses, so they wanted access to all those sermons,
so they did a reprint of it, and my mom got a copy of this. I would go off to school,
and come home and my mom would have the Journal of Discourses and all these books all over
the front room floor where she'd been studying all day. I'd think "oh brother." It caused
dissension in the home; my dad believed the church was really true, he just wasn't active.
My folks went into selling real estate and they were busy a lot of Sundays out with showing
property and things. But it was true! My dad might not be there all the time, but it was
true! And here's my mom questioning all of this.
Well, I get into Seminary, and my mom starts bringing up questions to me, and she's trying
to encourage me to ask questions in class. I should back up though to the 8th grade…
When I was in the 8th grade, a Christian girl came up to me one day in gym class and she
said "I understand you're a Mormon" and I said "yes" and she says "What do the Mormons
believe about God?" . I thought a minute and I said to her the little phrase that I was
raised hearing all the time "As man is God once was, and as God is man may become." I
thought that was a real good succinct statement, and she just looked at me horrified and said
"Sandra, that's blasphemy" and she walked away. That's the first time I remember ever
having been challenged on anything about Mormonism. Unfortunately, she didn't talk to me anymore,
so I had no idea why she thought it was blasphemy and no clue that it wasn't in the scriptures.
It would have helped if she would have told me about Isaiah 43:10 and 11; that would have
shown the blasphemy of the statement, but that was to come later. But that was the first
real thought that was planted in my mind, and that's why I think it's important for
us, whenever we have a chance to share with our friends and loved-ones, people around
us, to give them some reason why we are walking in the faith pattern we are, why we cannot
accept their faith pattern, why Mormonism is a problem for give them something
to think about. I wasn't ready for a full challenge, but God used what that girl said
to me as the first building block of building those doubts that finally made me look into
it all. You have to start somewhere. And so, anything we can say to encourage someone to
test what they say by the Bible, I think is really important. So I count that as the start
of my journey out.
Then in high school, like I said, I was going to Seminary and my mom's got these questions,
one of the things that came up when we were studying the Old Testament was the Mormons'
appeal in the Old Testament of Moses talking to God face-to-face, who did he talk to? Because
in Mormonism, they make Jehovah and Elohim two separate gods – so that Elohim is God
the Father and Jehovah is Jesus. So my mother's question she wanted me to ask in Seminary
was "who was Moses talking to, God or Jesus?" because in Seminary, they were using that
passage to try to prove that Heavenly Father had a physical body; that's how we knew he
had a physical form, because Moses talked to him face-to-face. So I went to Seminary,
and I asked, and I got this big run-around that most of the time Jesus is the God of
the Old Testament but once in a while it's Elohim (God the Father), and I said "Well,
how do you know which is which?" and she said "Well, we know because the brethren have told
us that at this point this is Heavenly Father but the other times it's Jehovah." And I thought,
"Boy, that's not going to fly with my mom because she's got books all over the floor,
she expects me to give her some specific reason for that, not just "the brethren said."" So,
when I got home, my mom asked me "well, how'd it go, did you ask about that question?" and
I said "well, no it didn't come up" and so I just let it go cuz I wasn't going to tell
her what the teacher told me because I knew my mom wouldn't accept it, that it would be
a big discussion, so I just let it go.
So then, I graduated from Seminary when I finished 11th grade, and the next year I started
into the Mormon Institute of Religion, which is their classes for college. This was all
just getting off the ground; this is back in the Dark Ages, it was the 1950's and all
of these were programs were fairly new in Mormonism at the time. Anyway, I'm going to
Institute classes. At this time my brother had been going to a Christian school. He was
going to the school not because it was Christian but because it gave a good education, better
than the public school system. Also my brother was short for his age, and to put him in public
school they would have put him up a grade where he would have been even shorter. So
they kept him in this Christian school.
Well, one day they sent home a notice they were having some sort of meetings and my mom
says "we ought to go and see what they're doing down at John's school, what this church
is promoting" so I said "OK I'll go with you." So we went to this meeting and I'd never attended
another church before this. I assume it was a very fine Christian service, the place was
packed out. They had a couple that were singing – I think the fellow played the violin
and she played the piano but they also sang – they did the musical thing and then he
preached (well, I wouldn't have known preaching cuz they don't call it that in Mormonism).
The thing that impressed me was that in their musical presentation, there was a real sense
of worship of God, a sense of devotion, I mean, it came across that these were really
sincere people, sharing from their heart their love for God. And I was very impressed by
that. But I didn't know any of the songs. I didn't know what anyone was talking about;
the whole sermon could have been given in Chinese, because I didn't understand any of
it. It just totally missed me. I'm assuming that there were people there that knew my
mother because my brother had been going to this school for a number of years at this
point. And I'm sure some of them who were sitting there thinking "Oh Praise God, here's
the McGee's come to service" you know, and I didn't get any of it.
Well, they got to the end of the service, and had everyone stand up, and I didn't know
what that was about. They played some sort of music, and sang some little phrase, and
I didn't know what any of that was about. Then they said, "everybody close their eyes,"
and of course, I'm a teenager, I'm not closing mine. And they said something else, and some
people raised their hands. Then they said something else and a bunch of people filed
down to the front and they're going through this little door off to the side of the stage
area, and they just file in there, and they never come out… they just keep going in
this door and we thought it was a pretty wild service. It's all very orderly-done, we just
didn't know what happens to them. This kept going on, and my mom nudges me and she says
"who knows how long this is going to go on" and I say "well, yeah", so we finally decide
we're going to edge our way out. We're right in the middle of the church, so we're edging
out to get to the aisle, and just then this man says something to the effect of "Praise
God, here comes two more sisters to the front" or something like this, and we're like "WHAT?"
and we beat it out the back door.
The point I'm getting to is that we may get our Mormon friends to come to church with
us, or anyone for that matter, and we may assume that they heard more of the message
than they did. Just because they've come, doesn't mean they've understood what was being
said. But it was a step in the right direction. And it helped me to see that people outside
of Mormonism had a faith in God, had a love for Him, they had a spirituality, and they
didn't need Mormonism for any of those things. And believe me, for me, these were big, important
steps – to see that. Up until that time, my Christian friends would talk about God
or something, and the attitude that I had as a Mormon (and I think many Mormons share
this) was a sort of condescending, pat-you-on-the-head, "Oh, that's sweet they talk about Jesus; now
if you could just get the full truth." It was important for me to see that these people
on the outside had some sort of connection with God that was real and genuine and they
didn't need Mormonism for it. It's part of that process of coming to see what Christianity
is really all about.
So, here I am going to Institute, and by the time I get into college, now I'm starting
to think through some of the things my mother has brought up to me through the years and
I'm starting to wonder about some of these things. So I started asking questions which
were fairly inocuous, because I didn't know enough to ask any really big ones. One day
the teacher asked me to stay after class. He said, "Sandra, you're disturbing a girl
with your questions that's thinking of joining the church. You've got to quit asking these
things." And I'm like, whoa, this is college. He's trained at BYU to teach Institute." And
I was surprised that the solution was to shut me up. not to give an answer to anything.
Well that wouldn't have taken me out of Mormonism; I still assume the Church was true, I just
hadn't found the right to ask the questions. And that's when... I was going with a fellow
at BYU and I got worried that he was looking at the girls. And so, I decided... My grandma
was coming back home after spending the Winter down in California, and so she wanted me to
come back with her. And I thought, well it might be a good time to renew my acquaintance
with my boyfriend and make sure he's not getting to familiar with the girls at "the Y." Well,
as it ended up, we broke up that weekend.
But my grandma asked me to take her to a meeting, and I didn't know what kind of meeting I was
going to. She was very cagey about telling me what it was and I couldn't figure it out,
so I thought "well, it must be a bunch of old people and she doesn't want to tell me
because I won't want to go." So I said, "Ok, Grandma, I'll take you to your meeting." So
we go across town in Salt Lake, over to the west side, and I go up and knock on the door,
and this nice-looking young man answers the door, and his name is Jerald Tanner.
Now, Jerald's story was that as a young boy growing up in a Mormon home, his father went
to BYU and graduated from there, then went to MIT and trained to be a meterologist, and
in the process of becoming a meteorologist, lost his faith in God, lost his faith in Mormonism,
everything. So in Jerald's home - he grew up where a father had left Mormonism and become
atheist and a mother who's trying to raise her kids to be good Mormons. Religion is ridiculed
in the home by the father; so this was a really tough situation. Well, Jerald, as a teenager
without a father's encouragement or direction to go to church, starts hanging around with
boys who aren't active at the ward. Jerald only got as far as a deacon, and then he found
out about drinking and smoking, and that seemed like a lot more fun than priesthood meetings.
But he assumed the church was true; this had nothing to do with the truth of Mormonism.
He just wasn't living according to the Word of Wisdom.
Well, when he gets to be 18, the bishop starts making little hints and innuendos, "Getting
about time for that mission, you know, time to straighten up and go out there and do your
missionary work." And so Jerald's thinking, "Wow, a mission, do I really believe this
enough to really straighten up?" So he decides he will read the Book of Mormon and see how
that goes.
So he reads that and yeah, he can believe the Book of Mormon, so he's good there. Then
he starts reading the Encyclopedia Brittanica which his folks had at home, and he read the
article on Mormonism. In the article, it mentioned the Reorganized Church and different splinter
groups in Mormonism and he didn't know there were splinter groups or that there were any
other kinds of Mormons. So he went and asked his mom about it and she said "Oh, we don't
talk about them. They are all apostate; we have nothing to do with those guys."
Well, now his curiousity is up. So he looks in the phone book and sees that the RLDS have
a branch here in Salt Lake, and decides to go see what they are about. So he goes over
to talk to the pastor (in the Reorganized Church, they call them pastors not bishops),
so he goes to over to talk to the pastor there. Well, the pastor is so excited to get a young
man from Mormonism interested in looking into the Reorganized Church. So he starts telling
Jerald everything that's wrong with Brigham Young and the Church after they came west.
It's all a big mistake, that wasn't God's plan, the Reorganized Church is the true church,
Joseph Smith's son is the true successor (not Brigham Young), and he started giving Jerald
all kinds of information on the early Utah period to discount it as being led of God.
Jerald started visiting at the Reorganized Church. In the process, he met a fellow there
that told him, "well, you need to come see my library because I have all the original
books. If you're really interested to see how it all started, you should come check
out my library." So, Jerald started going to this fellow's place (he had a barbershop
in downtown Salt Lake where the Matheson courthouse is now), and at the back of his barbershop
he had all of these books. He had original Book of Mormons, Doctrine & Covenants, Millennial
Star - he had all these early books on Mormonism from the Mormon history books.
So he started looking into all of this. Well, now the question is, "which of these churches
is the true one?" So he decides to take a trip to Independence, Missouri, to look up
the different splinter groups, because by now he knew that there were more besides the
Reorganized Church. So he drives out there and meets some of the different groups.
One of the things that this fellow had shown Jerald was a pamphlet by David Whitmer, one
of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon, where Whitmer says that Joseph Smith changed the
revelations, changed the doctrines of the church, and that everything after the Book
of Mormon was wrong and Joseph shouldn't have introduced all those things - to just throw
everything out and just go with the Bible and the Book of Mormon and just follow Jesus.
So he wants to check out the different splinter groups to see if any of them are like Whitmer,
just preaching the Bible and Book of Mormon.
When he's back there at the Church of Christ Temple Lot, they showed him an original Book
of Commandments, which is the forerunner to the Doctrine & Covenants, and he verified
what Whitmer said -- that the revelations had been rewritten and changed in the Doctrine
& Covenants. He verified that a lot of the doctrines came in later, they weren't all
full-blown there at the start of Mormonism. These are all things that troubled him.
In looking around, he found a little group in Independence that believed just the Bible
and Book of Mormon, and they were people that had come out of the Reorganized Church and
the Temple Lot group. They really loved the Lord, and they started telling Jerald that
it isn't just a matter of which things in Mormon you're sorting through, but that you
really need to make Christ the center of your life. And through this little group's witness,
Jerald comes to faith in Christ, but he's still believing the Bible and Book of Mormon.
So, when I meet him, he's having this meeting at his house to try to tell the Mormon people
they need to throw out everything after the Book of Mormon, and just go back to the Bible
and Book of Mormon, just follow Jesus and forget all this temple work, priesthood, and
all this other stuff. Ok, you have to remember, the operative word here is that Jerald was
cute. And I wish I could say that I had a greater spiritual quest than this, but that's
the way it worked.
So, I went up to Jerald afterwards, and I told him, "wow, that's really interesting,
why don't you come over to my grandma's and tell me more about this." And Jerald was so
excited that "someone is finally paying attention to me. I'm getting somewhere with someone."
So he comes over to my grandma's house and he's got all these books with him, and I'm
thinking, "oh my word, we're really going to study religion." And that was true.
So, Jerald's telling me about reading Whitmer's pamphlet, and the problems with this, and
he left me a copy and said I needed to check this out, that Mormonism today isn't Mormonism
as it started in 1830. That it's all been changed and we need to go back to the beginning.
Well, I thought, this is something I could verify for myself, so I went down to Weller's
bookstore (which was in a different location than it is now) - anyway, I went down to Sam
Weller's and I bought a current triple combination, and took it home. I also bought a reprint
of the Book of Commandments, which is the 1833 printing of Joseph's revelations. Then
I got my grandma to read that with me against the current Doctrine and Covenants.
Now, at the time, I didn't appreciate how unusual this would be for a grandma to be
willing to do this, because those of you who come out of Mormonism know, most of your Mormon
grandma's are not going to jump at the chance to study the different editions of the revelations
and see how they've been changed. And I didn't realize how much she'd already been studying
along the same lines as my mom, and so, she thought this sounded like a really interesting
project. So that's what we did for a couple days; we just sat there and read the Book
of Commandments against the Doctrine and Covenants.
And so, I'm marking in the Doctrine and Covenants - my grandma's reading from the Book of Commandments
and I'm marking all these changes. When it would get too big of a change, I'd just have
to write in the margins, "see Book of Commandments" and the page number, because I couldn't write
it all in the margin.
What this accomplished was that it destroyed my confidence in the Doctrine and Covenants.
I could see that, if God is giving this in English to Joseph Smith, we're not dealing
with a translation problem of taking it from a foreign language into English. This was
supposedly God speaking directly to Joseph Smith in English, and one would think he could
write it down right the first time around. Why would you have, 3 years later, rewriting
the very same revelations. This didn't seem consistent with the God that created the universe;
God could make it right the first time. Why would he have to go back and rewrite this?
And in Mormonism, of course, when you talk about the Great Apostasy and the reason why
we needed Mormonism to be restored was that the early Christian church changed all the
doctrines and changed the scriptures. And yet, here I was finding that the Mormons were
the ones that were changing the scriptures; I mean, that was not a matter of opinions,
I'm looking at the documents and they don't read the same. And so, how could God be in
charge of this, if everything is being rewritten and changed, and the doctrines are being changed
here? So those became very troubling.
And then I told Jerald I was a descendent of Brigham Young, and Jerald honed right in
on that one. He says, "Oh yeah, did you ever read any of Brigham Young's sermons?" Yeah,
ok, at 18, how many girls have been reading any of Brigham Young's sermons, you know?
I said, "No" and he said "Well, will you read a few if I brought them over?" I said, "well,
okay, but not too many of them" - I didn't want to make a life career out of this...
famous last words!
So he comes over to the house, then, with several volumes of the Journal of Discourses,
and he has these little tabs in the different volumes of the Journal of Discourses. So,
he says, "I don't expect you to read all of Brigham Young's sermons, but you at least
ought to read his most famous." I thought, "well, that sounds fair, okay." So here's
one on -" the only men who will become gods are those that practice polygamy." Well, they
don't teach that today. "If we have to give up polygamy for statehood, we'll never have
statehood!" - well, they blew that one. "Will the Civil War free the slaves? No!" - well,
that one didn't work out, either. Then, "Adam is our God; the only God we pray to is Adam."
I thought, "Wow, they don't teach that in Sunday School."
But then we got to blood atonement, and these were the sermons that really affected me.
He [Brigham Young] said that there are certain sins that you can commit that the blood of
Christ will not cover. And he was very specific. In one of the sermons he said, words to this
effect, "Let me suppose a case. Suppose I found my brother in bed with my wife. I would
immediately put a javelin through them both and it would send them to celestial reward,
and I would be justified in doing this." As I'm reading this, I'm just absolutely in shock.
I just knew that the Jesus of the New Testament would not have told him to preach a sermon
that the way to save someone would be to slit their throats or put a javelin through them.
Now, when I bring this up to Mormons, they say, "Oh, well, that's just one sermon, it
probably wasn't written right, and blah blah blah" and I say "No, it was sermon after sermon,
we've got 20 years of this, it isn't just a one-event thing. This was a common concept
of the day, that once you'd been through the temple and taken those covenants, that there
were certain sins that the blood of Christ would not cover, and your own blood would
have to be shed for it. At that point, I said to Jerald, "Ok, I'm open to looking at whatever
you've got. Obviously, we've got big problems here, and I'm going to have to really look
into this whole thing."
So, we had a whirlwind romance around the studying of early Mormonism. I think the only
real date we had, was he took me out to a spaghetti dinner someplace, but other than
that we had no just normal dating. It all centered around this! Yeah, it was kinda different.
And along the way, Jerald was talking to me about Christianity. It wasn't just Mormonism,
but it was (of course, he still had the Book of Mormon in the picture, but he was trying
to point out to me that following Christ was not following a church, that I needed to have
this relationship with Christ) also that the Bible and the Book of Mormon only teach ONE
God, that there's heaven or hell, that these are eternal choices - there's no temple ritual
that gets you a pass out. And that was true; the more I read the Book of Mormon, the more
I could see that it doesn't teach Mormonism.
So, when Jerald and I got married, we had backed out of Mormonism to the point of just
believing in the Book of Mormon; we didn't believe anything after 1830. We didn't think
God called him [Joseph Smith] to set up a church. We could see the priesthood wasn't
in the Book of Mormon; we gave up priesthood. The three degrees of glory - none of these
things were in the Book of Mormon; so if it wasn't in that, we threw it out. This becomes
interesting when I talk to Mormons because they'll come in and say,"Well, Mrs. Tanner,
have you ever read the Book of Mormon. Have you prayed about it?" And I say, Yes, I've
read it and prayed about it for a long time, for God to show me what the truth of that
was. It was the Book of Mormon that took me out of Mormon doctrine, because once I took
the Book of Mormon seriously for doctrine I had to give up all of these later teachings:
plural gods, of course, plural marriage, the whole idea of priesthood, the whole idea of
temple rituals, three degrees of glory---all of these things had to go because they weren't
in the Book of Mormon. But the more I studied the Bible the more
I was drawn spiritually to the Bible. So there was this growing concern about, where does
the Book of Mormon fit into all of this? If it teaches the same as the Bible then why
do we need it? And is it really true? Is it something I should hang onto? We had different
friends challenging us through this period, that if you can see that Joseph made up after
1830, how do you know he didn't make it up before 1830? This is kind of an arbitrary
line. How can you be sure he was ever on the level? So we went back and started doing the
study on the Mayan, on early American history. We started doing a study on the Bible, and
the more we were reading in the Bible, the more we could see that there are historical
underpinnings---not that we can prove everything in the Bible, but there is a Jerusalem, there
is real Hebrew and Greek. You can be a total atheist and work on a tran
slation of the scriptures. But that wasn't true of the Book of Mormon.
Along the way in all of this Jerald was taking around me to visit different Christian churches.
We lived in Southern California the first year of our marriage. Some of you may be familiar
with John MacArthur, well, I went to Jack MacArthur's church, where he was the father
of John. I sat through a number of Jack's sermons, holding onto the pew; I wasn't going
to go forward in one of those meetings. No way! By now I understood what people were
doing when they went down to the little room by the front when they had an invitation:
they were counseling and praying with people about accepting Christ. But the first time
I saw it was just like, whoa! This is really weird. But I wasn't going to do that.
As I was exposed more to Christianity I was getting a little more of the difference between
the terms, and this is a real problem in talking with our Mormon friends. They have the words,
but the definitions are different. And I knew that! I knew when I'd listen to sermons that
they meant it different than I was trained to think of it, but I didn't know how to put
it together. Okay, it's different, but what does it mean to be different? I mean, what
is their definition of these things? And it was a hard thing to sort through. Well, as
God worked things out, after we got married, I was home alone one Saturday, and Jerald
was working, and I was listening to a Christian radio program, and this minister came on who
was preaching from 1 John 4. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us,
and sent his Son as the propitiation for our sins." And as he explained that chapter, it
was like God brought together all the pieces that Jerald had been saying to me, things
I'd heard at the different Christian services.
As a Mormon, there is this sense of "Well, of course God loves me. Of course I love God.
I'm his child." You know, there's a sense of entitlement and all that - but there isn't
a sense of being outside of God's will, of being a sinner. I mean, you might feel outside
of God's will if you did a particular sin, but not in a sense of seeing yourself alienated
from God. And as this man preached on this chapter, it just came together, and I saw
"No, I was in rebellion against God." It wasn't just that I had done this little thing wrong
or that little thing wrong, my whole heart was against God. And that I needed a whole
new work, and that it was truly of Grace - that God has to change me from the inside.
It's not a matter of me doing outward performances to achieve this end of becoming holy, but
that God had to come in and do the transforming in me.
The wonder of the thing is that God first loved us, and that was the thing that really
hit me as this man was preaching. That I didn't deserve that love, I mean, that it was truly
a wonder that God did love me - and to see my separation, and that the door was open
for reconciliation by just submitting to God. So, in listening to that program, that's when
I accepted Christ.
But, we still had the Book of Mormon! And for another couple of years, friends would
challenge us, "Why do you believe that? Why can't you see that the man who invented all
the rest of it could have invented that as well." So finally, through our studies, we
came to the point that we realized that there is not any underpinnings for the story -
there's no historical evidence for it. You don't have any evidence for the people ever
existing in the Americas. There's no artifacts; there's no sample of the writing other than
the one Joseph Smith supplies us with. There are inconsistencies in the story itself. The
plant life, the animal life, the warfare - everything seems to be out of sync. This
would be like me giving you a diary that Columbus kept on his journey over here, and it said
that he listened to a transistor radio on the way over, or something. You know, you
would see that it's out of place. And so, as we studied, we started to see more and
more things in the Book of Mormon, that were out of place timewise, for the Book of Mormon
story to be true. So we finally had to come to the day when we set it aside and said,
"no, we're going back to just following the Bible."
Now, when we first left the Mormon church, but still believed the Book of Mormon, our
families were all upset at us, but there was still this sense of "well, they still believe
the Book of Mormon, they'll come back." And I knew, in giving up the Book of Mormon, I
would be making an alienation that was final, that was much more serious, that my family
would - that it would be that final cut, to say "No, I don't believe any of it." So that
was a little harder, to get to that point. But I knew that God had called me to that;
that there was no way that anything of Joseph Smith's would make it as gospel truth. That
I had to base everything I believed just on the Bible. I threw out all of Mormonism.
One of the odd things in all of this is, even though my mother was the one that first started
me questioning, she was as opposed to me leaving the church as anyone in my family. Because
she was cultural Mormon. It's one thing not to believe, it's another thing to leave. And
you don't make waves in the family. And so she was very opposed to me making that real
cut. I had a lot of discussions with aunts and uncles and grandparents. A lot of heartache,
a lot of tears - everyone was upset. I had one aunt come over to me one day at my house
just pleading with me. She says "Sandra, don't ever talk to me about the love of Christ.
Any girl who could put her family through what you're putting them through can't really
love Christ, or you wouldn't do this to them. How do you explain to someone that to follow
Christ, though, I can't look at who it's hurting. I'm sorry it hurts them, but if I have to
make a choice, I can't turn my back on Christ for anyone's sake. Through the years, we've
seen many in our family come out and become Christians. In fact, that very aunt came out
of it eventually and became a Christian. But some still are in it. So it's kind of a mixed
bag. Some have come out and are now saying they don't believe anything.
But when we first walked away from the Book of Mormon, we thought, "well, we need to write
up some of our research so people can see why we don't believe it anymore." And what
I tell people about Adam-God or blood-atonement or whatever, we started writing up little
pamphlets on these. We bought a little mimeograph machine, and you younger people may not even
know what that is, but old people know what mimeograph machines are! Pre-photocopies.
These little copies of things that we would run off to give to our family and friends.
And it just would make them mad, and they'd all say, "Oh, well, that's one statement.
It was probably recorded wrong. That doesn't prove anything." And we thought, OK, we're
going to get them five quotes. We would type it all up again and hand it out to everybody
and they'd say "well, that's just five quotes." Fine, I'm gonna get ya twenty, so we just
kept getting them bigger and bigger, and that's how we ended up doing it our whole life. "I'm
gonna show you guys that's what it really says!"
So we didn't intend that, of doing this the whole time, the rest of our lives. Jerald
was a machinist for the first five years of our marriage, and we were just printing off
little things in our part time, and then finally one day Jerald said "I can't keep doing this,
I'm too tired to work all day as a machinist and then do all this stuff in the evening.
We've got to decide if we're going to do this fulltime." And so we set up us a little business
and we were doing microfilm and photocopies of the early Mormon documents because we figured
both the Mormons and the non-Mormons would be interested in the photocopies for research
purposes - no matter what side you were on - because you couldn't just sit at home and
study all of this stuff, you had to go to some library in some other state or something
to do research. So we thought, wow, there might be a market for photocopies if we could
get them cheap and you could sit in your own home and study them. So that's how we started
out as Modern Microfilm Company. We did that for many years; never made money at it, always
going broke. Some friends of ours started helping us financially to make ends meet,
and they kept saying "You need to set up as a non-profit organization so we could get
a tax write-off. We could help you more if you were set up that way." So finally, in
1983, we set up as Utah Lighthouse Ministry. We still have our little bookstore. My husband
died four years ago October 1st, from Alzheimers, and that was a very hard, long time for a
number of years. I had to drop out of most speaking engagements and was pretty much tied
to home. But you know, God took us through it all, and I'm still going on with the ministry
When I first came out of Mormonism and became a Christian, and talking with my father, one
of the things my father would throw at me, when I'd say "Christ is sufficient," my dad
would say "Sandra, you've never had anything really bad happen in your life. You've never
had any real problems. Don't tell me Jesus is sufficient. You haven't had enough life
experience to say that." And there was some truth in that; I mean, intellectually I knew
that Christ could take me through anything, but I didn't have any experience to back it
up. But I can tell you that at this point in my life, I've been down that road. I've
been through the hard times, and going through the time with Jerald, um... you go through
all of the hopelessness, the despair, the "why?" and all of those things, but through
it all, I can say Christ was there. He carried me through. He gave me the strength to hang
in there even when all the odds were against us. In the saddest time of my life, God was
sufficient and He brought me through. Now, my dad finally did become a Christian; this
all happened long after my father had died. But if I were talking to him now, I could
say to him "No, Dad, I have had the experience now, I CAN say that God is sufficient for
every problem, every need. He can take us through the greatest heartaches of life. He
still is there."