The Tanners on the Hereafter:
A Case Study in “Studied Ignorance”
For decades, Jerald and Sandra Tanner of Utah Lighthouse Ministry have been to anti-Mormonism what Loraine Boettner has been to anti-Catholicism. That is, they have produced a kind of sourcebook for many other sectarian anti-Mormons. Karl Keating, director and founder of Catholic Answers (a Catholic apologetic ministry), writes the following regarding Boettner’s masterwork, Roman Catholicism: “Pick up an anti-Catholic tract, then turn to the same subject in Roman Catholicism. As likely as not, the words will be the same, simple plagiarism. In the world of religious bigotry, it seems all roads lead to Roman Catholicism.”1 In the incestuous world of anti-Mormon bigotry, many roads seem to lead back to the Tanners’ masterwork,Mormonism–Shadow or Reality? and related material. For instance, a book by Isaiah Bennett (published, ironically, by Catholic Answers) plagiarized quotations of primary sources from the Tanners without checking them for accuracy and context.2 Danel Bachman showed that the noted evangelical apologist Norman Geisler had plagiarized from the Tanners in his essay.3 In a companion review to that of Bachman, Alma Allred showed that Geisler’s plagiarized conclusions were simply wrong.4
One strategy utilized by the Tanners is to deluge readers with quotation after quotation, hoping to drive them to the conclusion that, even if they had misapplied a few pieces of evidence, surely some of their arguments must be valid. The result is an immense amount of material–over six hundred large-format (8.5 x 11″) pages of closely packed text that would easily fill one to two thousand pages in any standard book format. Several general reviews of Mormonism–Shadow or Reality? have already been published,5 but the sheer volume of material would make it nigh impossible to refute every single point. As Keating wrote about Roman Catholicism,
There is no room here to discuss each point Boettner brings up–the refutation of a one-sentence charge may take a page, and his tome would require a small library as an adequate reply–but the style of Roman Catholicism can be conveyed, and the reader can see there are serious deficiencies in the book, which forms the basis of the anti-Catholic movement.6
On the other hand, the Tanners might claim that the general reviews of their work have offered only “potshots.” That is, while they may have refuted a few points, are their criticisms valid for the Tanners’ work in general?7 If we took a single issue brought up by the Tanners and examined it fully, would we find that most of the general criticisms of the Tanners’ work are borne out in this single, small portion of their work? I have chosen to take a single, small chapter of the book, “The Hereafter” (ch. 14, pp. 196-199), and examine its major arguments. And while I do not intend to imply that the Tanners offer no valid criticisms of the various positions and actions they attribute to Latter-day Saints, I believe that this examination of one chapter inMormonism–Shadow or Reality? is a good indicator of the extent to which their entire work is flawed.
While I intend to expose a few instances where the Tanners have doctored quotations to fit their agenda, the main focus of this review will be to show that the Tanners have studiously avoided asking questions that might add depth to their understanding of Mormon history and, indeed, to their understanding of Christian history in general. What they have done, at least where they have adequately represented their sources, is to raise issues that contradict an overly simplistic view of Latter-day Saint beliefs. The result is that they represent these beliefs as a mass of confusion–an ever-changing world of contradictory ideas. Is there some way of viewing the data that makes sense out of seemingly contradictory ideas? Are key bits of information missing that might help us make sense of it all? The Tanners never ask questions like these.
A Mass of Confusion
The Tanners see Joseph Smith and the other Latter-day Saint prophets as continually vacillating on various issues, and it seems baffling to them that millions of Latter-day Saints can swallow Mormonism whole. Latter-day Saints, on the other hand, consider the revelations to encompass a harmonious whole. Whose assessment is correct?
The Tanners use the following line of reasoning to make their case. First, they attempt to show that the doctrine of heaven and hell preached in the Book of Mormon can be interpreted as an essentially orthodox response to the nineteenth-century Universalists. Second, they demonstrate that Joseph Smith’s later revelations are at odds with the “anti-Universalist” rhetoric they supposedly find in the Book of Mormon. Concerning the problem of “eternal punishment,” they observe: “Although it seems almost incredible that Joseph Smith completely reversed his position regarding eternal punishment, we must remember that he did this with regard to many other doctrines and practices” (p. 197).
In fact, “almost incredible” falls short of the truth. It is absolutely incredible to suppose that Joseph Smith and his followers moved ahead without seeming to notice such “complete reversals” of doctrine. Is there not a more rational way to view the history of Latter-day Saint doctrine? Saints turn to the following promise in the Book of Mormon: “And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them” (3 Nephi 26:9). The Book of Mormon does not claim to spell out every doctrine in full detail but rather promises that a more complete picture will be painted only later for those who first believe the teachings within its pages.
The question at hand is essentially one of context. Should we interpret the statements in the Book of Mormon in light of nineteenth-century anti-Universalist rhetoric or in light of the “greater things” it promised? While the Tanners’ method leads to a perceived mass of confusion, it can be shown that it is quite possible to interpret the Book of Mormon through the lens of Joseph Smith’s other revelations. The result of the latter approach is a system of beliefs about the hereafter that is close to that of some of the earliest Christians. Furthermore, the Tanners ignore additional context that is provided by the Book of Mormon itself. That is, a number of passages in the Book of Mormon directly contradict the Tanners’ interpretation of the Book of Mormon.
The Nineteenth-Century (and Fourth-Century) Universalists
Attempting to show that the Book of Mormon doctrine of the hereafter is a product of Joseph Smith’s anti-Universalist environment, the Tanners compare several statements of the Nephite prophets with statements in the contemporary literature about the Universalists. Whereas the Universalists preached “there is neither hell nor devil” (p. 196),8 the Book of Mormon asserts that it is the devil who flatters people by saying, “there is no hell. … I am no devil, for there is none” (2 Nephi 28:22). The Universalists said that “all punishment will ultimately have an end”9 and “all men will be saved” (p. 196),10 while the Book of Mormon condemns the false prophet Nehor for preaching “that all mankind should be saved at the last day…and, in the end, all men should have eternal life” (Alma 1:4). The Universalists expressed a belief in “the final restoration of all men to happiness” (p. 197),11 but the prophet Alma taught: “Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10). The Tanners conclude: “It is very difficult for us to believe that the ancient Nephites would be arguing over exactly the same issues and terms that were being discussed in Joseph Smith’s time” (p. 197).
Really? How many views of this issue are possible within Christianity? Either there is a hell, or there isn’t. Either hell will have an end, or it will not. Either all or none or some will be saved. Is it credible that the Universalists of the nineteenth century were the first to bring these issues up? If it can be shown that the same issues were debated in ancient times, then the Tanners’ criticism is unfounded.
J.N.D. Kelly of Oxford University tells us that similar questions were rampant in early Christianity. For instance, in the fourth century, Basil of Caesarea had “to confess that most ordinary Christians have been beguiled by the Devil into believing…that there will be a time-limit” to suffering in hell. Two of these “ordinary Christians” were “Gregory of Nazianzus, who on occasion seems to wonder whether eternal punishment is altogether worthy of God, and Gregory of Nyssa, who sometimes indeed mentions eternal pains, but whose real teaching envisages the eventual purification of the wicked, the conquest and disappearance of evil, and the final restoration of all things, the Devil himself included.”12 Obviously, the Universalists of the nineteenth century were not propounding some altogether new doctrine, and it is plausible that the ancient Nephites raised the same questions.
Furthermore, the Tanners make much of the fact that both the Universalists and the Book of Mormon used the term restoration to describe such beliefs, but note that Kelly also uses the termrestoration with reference to Gregory of Nyssa’s teaching. If the Nephites argued over some variation of “Universalism,” how else could Joseph Smith have translated the concept into English? My thesaurus lists several synonyms for this particular definition of restore. They include, “put back,” “reinstate,” “reinstitute,” “reestablish,” “reinstall,” “return,” “bring back,” and “give back.” None of these quite do the job, and Joseph Smith obviously would have used a term he was familiar with.
The anonymous Latter-day Saint historian who critiqued Mormonism–Shadow or Reality? made the following general criticism:
In the presentation of their argument, the Tanners are often guilty of a classic misuse of parallels in historical analysis: because Item Y resembles Item X closely and because Item Y existed in point of time after Item X, then Item Y necessarily or obviously derived from (was copied from, was influenced by, etc.) Item X. Such a line of reasoning first of all defies a frequently demonstrated principle in the history of philosophy, the natural sciences, anthropology, mathematics, literature, economics, religion, music, and other fields: that extremely similar (and sometimes nearly identical) ideas, interpretations, literatures, inventions, artistic forms, rituals, economic systems and cultural epochs have occurred closely related in time, but so far removed in geography and/or means of communication that neither similar manifestation had an influence upon the other.
A related misuse of parallels occurs once Item X can be shown to be capable in point of time and place of influencing Item Y. The conclusion is made that Item X necessarily influenced (was copied by) Item Y, without seriously considering 1) that despite the proximity, both Item X and Item Y developed independently, and 2) that an Item A, B, or C existed long prior to Item X and may have been the direct influence on both X and Y.13
Obviously, the same criticism could apply to isolated parallels drawn by Latter-day Saints, but most members have not usually been so unwise as to say that the truthfulness of LDS claims is the only reasonable conclusion to be drawn. Rather, attempts have been made to show that a large number of parallels exist between Latter-day Saint materials and ancient civilizations and texts, even in cases where these points were either missing or very marginal in Joseph Smith’s world. I recently detailed a large number of parallels between Joseph Smith’s doctrines and beliefs current within early Christianity.14 Furthermore, since Latter-day Saint scholars have claimed that many theological changes crept into Christianity via Greek culture and philosophy, I later brought many of my earlier observations together and showed that parallels to the major elements of LDS theology can be found in early Christian texts and traditions that are classified by scholars as “Jewish Christian.”15 That is, when Joseph Smith was restoring primitive Christianity, he not only picked doctrines that were found in the earliest strata of Christianity, but these “hits” seem to be concentrated in specifically Jewish forms of Christianity, whereas other brands of Christianity have roots in the gentile church. Since Jesus and his apostles were Jews, this corroborates Joseph Smith’s claim to have restored a primitive form of Christianity. In contrast, parallels between Latter-day Saint doctrines and Joseph Smith’s world usually come from widely disparate sources or were beliefs common to any number of ages.
To begin to judge the true provenance of Joseph Smith’s ideas, one must not arbitrarily limit the field of inquiry. “Since the Tanners are convinced that the Book of Mormon is nineteenth-century fiction, they cease looking for analogies beyond the contemporary availability of Joseph Smith in 1829.”16 According to Matthew Roper: “While some of the Tanners’ modern parallels are interesting, most do not appear to be singular to the early nineteenth century. In fact, upon closer examination, many of the Book of Mormon passages in question make better sense from an ancient perspective than they do from a modern one.”17
The Latter-day Saint Hereafter
The Tanners twist the Latter-day Saint doctrine of the hereafter to fit their preconceived notion that Joseph Smith used the Book of Mormon as a forum for anti-Universalist rhetoric and, within a year of its publication, “became converted to the ideas of the Universalists [and] completely repudiated the teachings of the Book of Mormon. It would almost appear that he completely forgot what he had previously written in the Book of Mormon” (p. 197). One critic of the Tanners pointed out this tendency decades ago:
Another tool of polemics that the Tanners frequently use is the “Straw Man” approach. Briefly, this method sets up an easily refutable and non-representative argument that is supposed to represent the position of one’s opponents, and once the opponent has been set up in this manner, the polemicist proceeds to devastate the “Straw Man,” leaving the audience with the impression that the real opponent has been defeated. The common addition of the Tanners to this device is to create their Straw Man by quoting from their opponents’ own sources, in this case from the prominent advocates and defenders of Mormonism.18
In this case, it can be shown that Joseph Smith never accepted Universalism. So while the Book of Mormon certainly does condemn such ideas, they cannot be equated with later Latter-day Saint doctrine. This is a classic case of “Straw Man” argumentation, and in addition, it can be shown that the overall view of the hereafter given by Joseph Smith is a legitimate restoration of primitive Christian ideas. With this in mind, I will briefly explain Latter-day Saint beliefs about the hereafter and then show that the Book of Mormon text is consistent with these doctrines.
The Spirit World
Immediately after death, Latter-day Saints believe that the soul goes to an intermediate state often called the “spirit world.” The Book of Mormon teaches that the world of spirits is divided into two parts: paradise, which is where the righteous dwell, and hell, which is where the wicked receive punishment (Alma 40:11-14). And yet, it is still all one world of spirits. As Joseph Smith taught, “Hades, Sheol, paradise, spirits in prison, are all one: it is a world of spirits. The righteous and the wicked all go to the same world of spirits until the resurrection.”19 The Tanners quote Milton Backman to the effect that Joseph Smith “accepted the Roman Catholic concept that there was an intermediate or preparatory stage between death and a final judgment” (p. 198, emphasis omitted). But the Latter-day Saint spirit world is no “Mormon purgatory” as the Tanners would have it (p. 198). Instead, the righteous “are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace” (Alma 40:12), whereas the wicked are cast into hell, in a “state of awful, fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God upon them” (Alma 40:14). In the Catholic concept of purgatory, the souls of even the righteous are subjected to suffering in payment for unrepented sins.20 The Latter-day Saint concept of the spirit world is thoroughly biblical, as the following passage from The Oxford Companion to the Bible demonstrates:
Hell…is the traditional English translation of the Hebrew word Sheol, …and of the Greek word Hades…
Both Sheol and Hades refer to a general dwelling place of souls after death (Gen. 37:35; Acts 2:27)…
Postexilic Judaism reserved a particular section of hell for the punishment of sinners (emphasized in 1 Enoch 22:10-11). In the New Testament, the synoptic Gospels and James in twelve cases name this place of pain Gehenna (Matt. 5:22; James 3:6).21
Jesus called the section of the spirit world reserved for the redeemed “paradise.” “Jesus said unto [the thief], Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Obviously this could not have referred to the place where God dwells, since Jesus was resurrected three days later and said, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father” (John 20:17).
The belief in an intermediate state was taught from the beginning in Christianity. For instance, Justin Martyr (ca. ad 150) taught: “The souls of the pious remain in a better place, while those of the unjust and wicked are in a worse, waiting for the time of judgment. Thus some which have appeared worthy of God never die; but others are punished so long as God wills them to exist and to be punished.”22 So also Tertullian (ca. ad 200):
All souls, therefore, are shut up within Hades: do you admit this? (It is true, whether) you say yes or no… Why, then, cannot you suppose that the soul undergoes punishment and consolation in Hades in the interval, while it awaits its alternative of judgment, in a certain anticipation either of gloom or of glory?23
It is difficult to determine why the Tanners would have a problem with the idea that there is an intermediate state between death and the resurrection. The Bible points to such an intermediate state, and many of the earliest Christian writers explicitly taught this. And while it is true that some early Christians denied the existence of an intermediate state, those who did so were generally gnostics who denied the reality of the physical resurrection in the first place. For instance, Justin Martyr wrote that so-called Christians who claimed that souls are taken straight to heaven at death are not Christians at all:
For if you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit this [truth], and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; who say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians.24
In addition, the Apostle John called people like the gnostics–who often denied the reality of the Incarnation as well as the resurrection–“antichrist[s]” (1 John 4:3), I would expect this fact to be less than comforting to those who reject the notion of a “preparatory state” like the Tanners.25
Joseph Smith taught that the punishment in hell would not consist of being dipped in molten rock and poked by so many pitchforks. He explained, “A man is his own tormenter and his own condemner. Hence the saying, They shall go into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. The torment of disappointment in the mind of man is as exquisite as a lake burning with fire and brimstone.”26 Similarly, the early Christian theologian Origen (early third century) wrote: “The whole crop of our sins grows up afresh from seeds which remain in the soul, and all our dishonourable and undutiful acts are again pictured before our gaze. Thus it is the fire of conscience and the stings of remorse which torture the mind as it looks back on former self-indulgence.”27
The particular punishment awaiting the wicked in the spirit world will have an end. The Lord explained to Joseph Smith that those passages of scripture which speak of the “endless torment” of hell give reference to the eternal nature of the punishment, not to the duration of the punishment for any particular person.
Nevertheless, it is not written that there shall be no end to this torment, but it is written endless torment. Again, it is written eternal damnation; wherefore it is more express than other scriptures, that it might work upon the hearts of the children of men, altogether for my name’s glory. Wherefore, I will explain unto you this mystery, for it is meet unto you to know even as mine apostles. I speak unto you that are chosen in this thing, even as one, that you may enter into my rest. For, behold, the mystery of godliness, how great is it! For, behold, I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my hand is endless punishment, for Endless is my name. Wherefore–Eternal punishment is God’s punishment. Endless punishment is God’s punishment. (D&C 19:6-12)
The revelation appears to imply that while the ancient apostles knew the true interpretation of these passages, some of the ancient Saints may not have. In fact, there appears to have been confusion over this doctrine within early Christianity, as we saw above. The Latter-day Saint interpretation is perhaps most akin to the teaching of Clement of Alexandria (ca. AD 200), who wrote: “For God’s righteousness is good, and His goodness is righteous. And though the punishments cease in the course of the completion of the expiation and purification of each one, yet those have very great and permanent grief who are found worthy of the other fold, on account of not being along with those that have been glorified through righteousness.”28 Similarly, Joseph Smith taught that although the punishment and purification of the wicked in hell (excepting the “sons of perdition”) will cease, the wicked will not achieve “eternal life,” and in a sense their punishment will continue after the resurrection. “The disappointment of hopes and expectations at the resurrection [will] be indescribably dreadful.”29
Therefore, in Joseph Smith’s view, the punishments of hell have an end for most people, but some degree of disappointment and torment will remain in the resurrection. Therefore, to characterize Latter-day Saint belief as “Universalism” is a gross distortion on the part of the Tanners.
Repentance in the Spirit World
Joseph Smith explained that repentance is still possible in the spirit world: “Our Savior says, that all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men wherewith they shall blaspheme; but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven, neither in this world, nor in the world to come [Matt. 12:31-32], evidently showing that there are sins which may be forgiven in the world to come.”30 The Apostle Peter taught the same principle: “In the body [Christ] was put to death; in the spirit he was brought to life. And in the spirit he went and made his proclamation to the imprisoned spirits. They had refused obedience long ago, while God waited patiently in the days of Noah and the building of the ark” (1 Peter 3:18-20 New English Bible [NEB]). Why did Christ preach to the disobedient spirits who lived in Noah’s day? Peter goes on, “Why was the Gospel preached to those who are dead? In order that, although in the body they received the sentence common to men, they might in the spirit be alive with the life of God” (1 Peter 4:6 NEB). President Joseph F. Smith had a vision wherein he saw that Jesus’s servants even now minister among the dead, declaring the gospel of repentance (D&C 138). Every spirit aside from those who have committed the unpardonable sin will eventually repent and be released from the punishment of hell, in fulfillment of the words of Paul: “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11; cf. D&C 76:110). Those repentant spirits who would have accepted the gospel in mortality, had they been given the chance, will not only be freed from the torments of hell but will obtain eternal life with God (D&C 137:7-8).
We have already seen that Clement of Alexandria (among others) taught that there would be an end to the torments of hell. Consider also his belief that those righteous souls who had not accepted Christ due to ignorance would be able to accept the preaching of Jesus and his messengers in the spirit world and obtain eternal life.
For it is not right that these should be condemned without trial, and that those alone who lived after the advent should have the advantage of the divine righteousness. But to all rational souls it was said from above, “Whatever one of you has done in ignorance, without clearly knowing God, if, on becoming conscious, he repent, all his sins will be forgiven him.”31
It was for this reason, too, that the Lord descended into the regions beneath the earth, preaching His advent there also, and [declaring] the remission of sins received by those who believe in Him.32
And it has been shown also…that the apostles, following the Lord, preached the Gospel to those in Hades… For it was suitable to the divine administration, that those possessed of greater worth in righteousness, and whose life had been pre-eminent, on repenting of their transgressions, though found in another place, yet being confessedly of the number of the people of God Almighty, should be saved, each one according to his individual knowledge.33
The Three Degrees of Glory and Outer Darkness
At the resurrection, all men will stand before God and be “judged[,] every man according to their works” (Revelation 20:13). Paul explained that since everyone’s works are different, all will receive different rewards:
Every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour… For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. (1 Corinthians 3:8, 11-15)
In a vision given to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, the Lord explained many of the particulars of this graded judgment. Those who have not committed the unpardonable sin will be divided into three kingdoms of glory. The first kingdom, called the celestial, will be inhabited by those who have overcome by faith in Jesus Christ (D&C 76:50-70, 92-96), including children who have died and those who would have accepted the gospel in this life but were not given the chance until they reached the spirit world (D&C 137). Only those who inherit this kingdom will have “eternal life,” which is the same kind of life God leads. “No man who does not receive the privilege of entering the celestial kingdom and coming face to face with the Father will be able to know what eternal life is, for he cannot know the Father unless he sees him and dwells with him, and partakes of the same life which the Father possesses for that is eternal life.”34 The second kingdom, called the terrestrial, will be inhabited by good people who were just and kind but were not valiant in their testimony of Jesus, as well as those who rejected the gospel in this life, but afterward received it (D&C 76:71-80, 91, 97). The third, or telestial, kingdom will be given to the generally wicked masses of the earth who spent their entire residence in the spirit world in hell and so were not worthy of any higher glory (D&C 76:81-90, 98-112).
The Tanners object to the Latter-day Saint use of 1 Corinthians 15:40 to support our doctrine of degrees of glory because there is no evidence that the word telestial was originally used and because celestial simply means “heavenly” and terrestrial means “earthly.” “A careful examination of the context, verses 35-54, reveals that Paul was comparing our earthly body with the body we shall receive in the resurrection; he was not speaking of three kingdoms in heaven” (p. 199). However, reading further, verses 41 and 42 clarify:
There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. (1 Corinthians 15:40-42)
Although Joseph Smith’s interpretation of this passage is not obvious, it exactly coincides with the interpretation of the early Christian Church as reported by the theologian Origen:
Our understanding of the passage indeed is, that the apostle, wishing to describe the great difference among those who rise again in glory, i.e., of the saints, borrowed a comparison from the heavenly bodies, saying, “One is the glory of the sun, another the glory of the moon, another the glory of the stars.”35
Therefore, whether or not the word telestial is a restoration of lost text, Joseph Smith’s emended text certainly restores lost context to the passage that was obvious to the early Christians but that is missed by most modern readers.
Of course, the Tanners also passed over Paul’s report of a vision wherein he was “caught up to the third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:2). Jean Daniélou writes that in ancient Jewish and Jewish Christian thought, “This hidden world includes first of all the heavens. Of these, traditional Judaism knew only three: the heaven of meteors, the heaven of stars and the heaven of God, and this is the scheme employed in the older Jewish apocalyptic. It is this system to which Paul alludes.” Some Jewish Christians elaborated the three-heaven system into one of seven or more heavens, but in all cases, beings of various degrees of glory were thought to inhabit them.36
And what about Jesus’s allusion to three degrees of glory? “But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:23). Clement of Alexandria not only interpreted this verse in terms of the three degrees of glory but echoed Joseph Smith’s statement that those who inhabit the celestial kingdom will be “gods, even the sons of God” (D&C 76:58).
Conformably, therefore, there are various abodes, according to the worth of those who have believed… These chosen abodes, which are three, are indicated by the numbers in the Gospel–the thirty, the sixty, the hundred. And the perfect inheritance belongs to those who attain to “a perfect man,” according to the image of the Lord… To the likeness of God, then, he that is introduced into adoption and the friendship of God, to the just inheritance of the lords and gods is brought; if he be perfected, according to the Gospel, as the Lord Himself taught.37
On the opposite end of the spectrum from the celestial kingdom are those who have committed the unpardonable sin to become sons of perdition. Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained:
Those in this life who gain a perfect knowledge of the divinity of the gospel cause, a knowledge that comes only by revelation from the Holy Ghost, and who then link themselves with Lucifer and come out in open rebellion, also become sons of perdition. Their destiny, following their resurrection, is to be cast out with the devil and his angels, to inherit the same kingdom in a state where “their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” (D. & C. 76:32-49; 29:27-30; Heb. 6:4-8; 2 Pet. 2:20-22; 2 Ne. 9:14-16.)38
Therefore, there is a gradation in the resurrection between the full measure of salvation denoted by “eternal life,” and “eternal damnation.” On the one hand, Jesus promised to “reward every man according to his works” (Matthew 16:27), and on the other hand, he threatened a “greater damnation” upon the wicked scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23:14; Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47). Elder McConkie wrote:
The opposite of salvation is damnation, and just as there are varying degrees and kinds of salvation, so there are degrees and kinds of damnation… Literally, to be damned is to be condemned, and the scriptures speak of the damned as: 1. Those who are thrust down to hell to await the day of the resurrection of damnation; 2. Those who fail to gain an inheritance in the celestial kingdom or kingdom of God; 3. Those who become sons of perdition; and 4. Those who fail to gain exaltation in the highest heaven within the celestial world, even though they do gain a celestial mansion in one of the lower heavens of that world.39
All but those who obtain “eternal life” in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom will be “damned” to some degree, in that their progress is stopped, and must suffer the corresponding disappointment. On the other hand, all but the sons of perdition are, in some sense, heirs of salvation. Consider how Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon referred to those who inherit the telestial kingdom. “And also the telestial receive it of the administering of angels who are appointed to minister for them, or who are appointed to be ministering spirits for them; for they shall be heirs of salvation” (D&C 76:88). On the other hand, they said, “And they shall be servants of the Most High; but where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end” (D&C 76:112). In another revelation Joseph Smith was told that “they who believe not on your words, and are not baptized in water in my name, for the remission of their sins, that they may receive the Holy Ghost, shall be damned, and shall not come into my Father’s kingdom where my Father and I am” (D&C 84:74). Thus, those in the telestial kingdom are both “heirs of salvation,” and are “damned,” because “where God and Christ dwell they cannot come.”
While the Tanners do discuss the doctrine of degrees of glory (pp. 198-199), they have left out the fact that Latter-day Saints believe that those who do not inherit the celestial kingdom will be “damned” in a very real sense. They do this so that they can contrast their oversimplified picture of the doctrine with statements in the Book of Mormon that say men will either “dwell in the kingdom of God, or…be cast out” (1 Nephi 15:35).
We will see that even though the Book of Mormon sometimes uses such “black and white” language, it also includes passages that imply a gradation of rewards and punishments in the afterlife.
The Book of Mormon on the Hereafter
Two things should be obvious at this point. First, Joseph Smith restored a genuine early Christian doctrine of the hereafter. Second, he did not convert to the Universalist point of view, as the Tanners would have it. He neither taught that there is no hell nor that all mankind will be saved. The only point of similarity is that Joseph Smith taught there would be an end to the torments of hell for most people–not all–and even then, those who are not exalted will suffer on, to some extent. However, one question remains.
Although the Book of Mormon specifically claims not to give a full picture of the restoration theology, can it be successfully interpreted within that context? “Come unto me, O ye Gentiles, and I will show unto you the greater things, the knowledge which is hid up because of unbelief” (Ether 4:13). That is, since the Book of Mormon claims that “greater things” were yet to come, can we show that the Book of Mormon passages on the hereafter lead into, rather than contradict, later revelations? In this section I will address the passages the Tanners say conflict with Latter-day Saint doctrine, often restoring some missing context, and show that they do not conflict with Joseph Smith’s later revelations.
The Tanners cite several passages that they say teach there will be no end to the torments of hell. Second Nephi 28:23 speaks of the “lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment.” Alma taught that “repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment, which also was eternal as the life of the soul should be, affixed opposite to the plan of happiness, which was as eternal also as the life of the soul” (Alma 42:16). Speaking of the unrepentant person, King Benjamin explained:
The demands of divine justice do awaken his immortal soul to a lively sense of his own guilt, which doth cause him to shrink from the presence of the Lord, and doth fill his breast with guilt, and pain, and anguish, which is like an unquenchable fire, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever. And now I say unto you, that mercy hath no claim on that man; therefore his final doom is to endure a never-ending torment. (Mosiah 2:38-39)
However, in all these cases, it is the punishment itself that is called “never-ending” or “eternal.” Note the language of Alma regarding the guilt he felt before his conversion: “But I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins” (Alma 36:12). Two things should be noted about this passage. First, the punishment of hell is represented as pangs of guilt, not as a literal lake of fire, as in the traditional view. Second, while Alma was “racked with eternal torment,” that torment had an end! In addition, it should always be kept in mind that those in the lower kingdoms of glory after the resurrection still have to bear their punishment to some extent because of their disappointment at not obtaining eternal life. They are truly “damned” in that sense.
Repentance after Death
The Tanners also try to show that the Book of Mormon teaches there will be no chance for any kind of repentance after death. They quote Jesus: “And he that endureth not unto the end, the same is he that is also hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence they can no more return, because of the justice of the Father” (3 Nephi 27:17; cf. 3 Nephi 27:11). But Latter-day Saintsdo not believe that people “return” from hellfire–they pass through to the other side; and once again, the anguish of soul still remains to some extent even after the resurrection. So in a sense, those who do not “endure to the end” cannot return completely from hellfire, and it never ends.
The Tanners also quote the following passage:
For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors. And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed. Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world. For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked. (Alma 34:32-35)
Latter-day Saints accept this as the “final state” of the wicked in the sense that it is their state at the final curtain of this life, but this does not mean their punishment will have no end. Indeed, this passage states that “that same spirit” that possesses a man’s body in this life will continue on, and to whatever extent people would have repented, given more knowledge, they will have the chance to follow through in the spirit world (see D&C 137). Those who have wholly turned to evil will become sons of perdition and will have no chance for further repentance.
These points can be better illustrated if we collect a number of statements from the Book of Mormon that initially seem to contradict one another but, when harmonized, show that the Book of Mormon message leads directly into the later revelations.
First, the Book of Mormon claims that all men must repent and be baptized to be saved. “And he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mormon 9:23; cf. Alma 9:27; 3 Nephi 11:33-34; Ether 4:18).
And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfil all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water! … And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved. (2 Nephi 31:5, 16)
Now I say unto you that ye must repent, and be born again; for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness. (Alma 7:14)
On the other hand, many passages claim that the atonement of Christ covers sins committed in ignorance, and that little children and “all they that are without the law…cannot repent; and unto such baptism availeth nothing” (Moroni 8:22; cf. 2 Nephi 9:26; Mosiah 3:11, 20-22). Does this mean that the heathen do not need to repent and be baptized? If not, why bother proselytizing them? Alma gives us the answer:
O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people! … I ought not to harrow up in my desires, the firm decree of a just God, for I know that he granteth unto men according to their desire, whether it be unto death or unto life; yea, I know that he allotteth unto men, yea, decreeth unto them decrees which are unalterable, according to their wills, whether they be unto salvation or unto destruction. Yea, and I know that good and evil have come before all men; he that knoweth not good from evil is blameless; but he that knoweth good and evil, to him it is given according to his desires, whether he desireth good or evil, life or death, joy or remorse of conscience. Now, seeing that I know these things, why should I desire more than to perform the work to which I have been called? Why should I desire that I were an angel, that I could speak unto all the ends of the earth? For behold, the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have; therefore we see that the Lord doth counsel in wisdom, according to that which is just and true. (Alma 29:1, 4-8)
In other words, all men, no matter what their location or culture, have been given some of the word of God, and “good and evil have come before all men.” Therefore, all mentally competent men do need to repent and do need to receive baptism, but only to redeem them from conscious sins. Those who always sin ignorantly, such as children or the mentally handicapped, do not need baptism at all. But still, Alma insists that it is wrong for him to wish he could proselytize everyone on the earth because for now, at least, the portion of God’s word that has been given them is sufficient.40 Therefore, since the Book of Mormon explicitly teaches the necessity of baptism and also teaches that those in heathen* nations are not necessarily damned, it follows that there must be some way these people can repent and receive baptism after death. Thus, while the concepts of repentance in the spirit world and baptism for the dead were reserved to be explicitly explained in Joseph Smith’s later revelations, they are consistent with the overall message of the Book of Mormon.
Degrees of Glory
The same situation is apparent with the Tanners’ assertion that some Book of Mormon passages preclude the concept of degrees of glory. They quote Orson Pratt, who wrote: “Then again, what could we learn from either the Bible or Book of Mormon in regard to three glories–the celestial, the terrestrial and the telestial glories? What did we know concerning those that should inhabit these various worlds of glory? Nothing at all” (p. 199, emphasis omitted).41 However, in context, Elder Pratt was not admitting that the Bible and Book of Mormon contradict such teachings but was making exactly the same point I make here, that the Book of Mormon prophesies that greater things would be revealed. “I mention this in order to refer to the text which I have taken. He that receives this record, and shall not condemn it because of imperfections that are in it, the same shall know of greater things than these. That is, they shall know of greater things than what are contained in the Book of Mormon.”42
Some passages assert that men will either be in the kingdom of God or in the kingdom of the devil (1 Nephi 15:35; Alma 5:24-25, 39). However, these can easily be interpreted as references to two opposite ends of the spectrum–a contrast between light and darkness without ruling out different degrees of brightness. The most telling example of the Tanners’ tendency toward strictly “black-and-white” interpretations is their quotation of Alma 41:1-4, 10, 12, 13, 15. They make sure to quote the parts about it being impossible to be “restored from sin to happiness” (v. 10), and so forth, but neglect to include verse 5, which reads: “The one raised to happiness according to his desires of happiness, or good according to his desires of good; and the other to evil according to his desires of evil; for as he has desired to do evil all the day long even so shall he have his reward of evil when the night cometh.” This is the whole point of the doctrine of degrees of glory. Every person will receive a reward exactly coinciding with his desires for good or evil–and this differs from person to person. The same contrast between light and darkness, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the devil, is found in the Bible, but we have already seen that other passages attest to the early Christian belief in degrees of glory and punishment.
A number of other passages in the Book of Mormon refer to the fact that humans will be judged by their works (for example, Alma 9:28). Even more to the point, some passages say that one will be rewarded for such things as enduring persecution and bringing many converts into the church. “Behold, they have labored exceedingly, and have brought forth much fruit; and how great shall be their reward” (Alma 29:15). “And blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake; For ye shall have great joy and be exceedingly glad, for great shall be your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you” (3 Nephi 12:11-12). Are these equally the experience of every follower of Christ? If not, this suggests that there must be variations in heavenly rewards, and likely, variations in punishment.
Paul implied the very same thing in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15:
For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
Dissolved and Reorganized Spirits?
In the cases cited above, I have shown that the “contradictions” alleged by the Tanners tend to disappear if we take into account the full context of the Book of Mormon and Latter-day Saint belief. However, what about cases when contradictions really exist? Latter-day Saints can take a few such instances in stride, because we categorically reject the fundamentalist notion of “infallibility.” The Tanners’ anonymous critic explained:
As much as we resist uncertainty by insisting on the word-for-word content of written revelations (the “jots and tittles” referred to by Christ), written revelation is an imperfect approximation of a communication between divinity and man that is ultimately ineffable. Therefore it is to be expected that as the prophet-receptor of revelation seeks to record that experience, he may experiment not only with phrasing but also with content.43
In support of this assertion, this historian cites a revelation to Joseph Smith: “These commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language” (D&C 1:24). Furthermore, the Book of Mormon warns that it may contain a few “mistakes of men” (title page; cf. Mormon 8:12). Also, Brigham Young said:
I do not even believe that there is a single revelation, among the many God has given to the Church, that is perfect in its fulness. The revelations of God contain correct doctrine and principle, so far as they go; but it is impossible for the poor, weak, low, grovelling, sinful inhabitants of the earth to receive a revelation from the Almighty in all its perfections. He has to speak to us in a manner to meet the extent of our capacities.44
I might add the following explanation from Bruce R. McConkie:
But not every word that a man who is a prophet speaks is a prophetic utterance. Joseph Smith taught that a prophet is not always a prophet, only when he is acting as such (Teachings, p. 278). Men who wear the prophetic mantle are still men; they have their own views; and their understanding of gospel truths is dependent upon the study and inspiration that is theirs.45
The Tanners, as fundamentalists, might object that these are excuses, but the anonymous historian cites similar problems scholars have noted with the Bible.46 Indeed, William H. Barnes, associate professor of biblical studies at the Southeastern College of the Assemblies of God, notes that “the relationship between the divine and human ‘authors’ of scripture has never been easily delineated.” He elaborates, “Today all but the most extreme Jewish and Christian fundamentalists recognize the complicated and heterogeneous origins of the Bible and that it contains statements that in any other literary work would be considered erroneous.”47
In other words, the Tanners are guilty of projecting their own extreme fundamentalist views of scripture and prophets onto the Latter-day Saints and announcing that we therefore have various “problems.” Lawrence Foster notes:
Why was the Tanners’ disillusionment with Mormonism so deep and their hostility toward it so sustained? A key factor was Jerald Tanner’s reaction to his initial naive and unrealistic understanding of Mormonism. As a youth, he appears to have believed that Joseph Smith was perfect and that the Latter-day Saint church had all the answers and could do no wrong. When his research increasingly showed him that Smith had flaws, that the eternally true (and some assert, changeless) church had in fact changed, and that Mormon leaders had sometimes made mistakes, even very serious ones, he was furious…
Although the Tanners do retain from Mormonism a belief that a religion is either “true” or “false,” they are convinced that they have located ultimate truth in their new faith–which happens to be a form of Protestant fundamentalism.48
This is particularly true of the Tanners’ treatment of Latter-day Saint ideas about the fate of the sons of perdition. They point out that when the vision of the degrees of glory was originally published in the church periodical The Evening and the Morning Star,49 the sufferings of the sons of perdition were described as “eternal,” and they would suffer “throughout” eternity (p. 199). However, in the Doctrine and Covenants (76:30, 32, 33, 44, 49) these passages have had references to the word eternal removed, or the word throughout changed to in. What they neglect to mention is that Joseph Smith himself made these changes when preparing the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. Why would Joseph Smith make such a change? It may be that he was altering the phrasing to better reflect what else the very same revelation had to say about the fate of the sons of perdition.
Wherefore, he saves all except them–they shall go away into everlasting punishment, which is endless punishment, which is eternal punishment, to reign with the devil and his angels in eternity, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched, which is their torment–And the end thereof, neither the place thereof, nor their torment, no man knows; Neither was it revealed, neither is, neither will be revealed unto man, except to them who are made partakers thereof; Nevertheless, I, the Lord, show it by vision unto many, but straightway shut it up again; Wherefore, the end, the width, the height, the depth, and the misery thereof, they understand not, neither any man except those who are ordained unto this condemnation. (D&C 76:44-48)
Apparently, even though the torment of the sons of perdition is described as “eternal,” “the end thereof” has not been, and will not be, revealed to men. In other words, this was a simple clarification on Joseph Smith’s part.
Nevertheless, the Tanners show that Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball entertained the idea that the sons of perdition would eventually be dissolved into elementary particles–a form of annihilationism. This seems to contradict the strict interpretation of the word eternal, but I might point out that the Hebrew word translated “eternal” or “everlasting” in the Bible is >ôlam, which is defined to mean “(practically) eternity,” “time out of mind,” or “forever,” expressing the concept of a very long time.50 For example, Exodus 31:16 NEB says, “The Israelites shall keep the sabbath, they shall keep it in every generation as a covenant for ever.” “For ever” in this verse is, of course, a translation of côlam, which is elsewhere used to describe God’s eternity (for example, Psalm 41:13). Do the Tanners really want to insist that the concept of “eternity” in the scriptures always has to be interpreted in the most extreme possible sense? Given this sort of ambiguity of language in the scriptures, Young and Kimball’s view can be entertained as a possibility. However, to my knowledge they never claimed that they obtained their views from revelation, but rather claimed to be interpreting certain biblical passages. For instance, even the Tanners once quote Brigham Young saying, “I say nothing about this, only what the Lord says–that when he comes, ‘he will destroy death, and him that has the power of it'” (p. 199).51 This is apparently an allusion to Hebrews 2:14, where Christ is said to partake of death in order to “destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.”
However, the fact is that Doctrine and Covenants 76 specifically declares that the final end of the sons of perdition has not been, and will not be, revealed. Therefore, Latter-day Saints freely acknowledge that this idea was taught, but necessarily categorize it as speculation. For instance, the Tanners quote Apostle John A. Widtsoe:
President Brigham Young has suggested that the ultimate punishment of the sons of perdition may be that they, having their spiritual bodies disorganized, must start over again, must begin anew the long journey of existence, repeating the steps that they took in the eternities before the Great Council was held. (p. 199)52
But along with this frank admission, Elder Widtsoe made exactly the same point that I have made–that is, he noted, “The destiny of the sons of perdition is not known,” and he cited the revelation on the degrees of glory (D&C 76:45-46, 48).
One of the stock criticisms of the Tanners has been that they often omit parts of quotations that might soften or otherwise modify their conclusions about the “Mormon conspiracy.”53 This criticism turns out to be true of a number of passages quoted by the Tanners in their tiny chapter on the hereafter. I have cited a couple examples above, and I discuss another here.
I noted above that in one sense Latter-day Saints believe that hell has an end, but in another sense, those who do not reach the celestial kingdom are “damned” and will continue to suffer the consequences and disappointment of their choices. Also, I pointed out that even in the Book of Mormon, the “lake of fire” used to describe the pains of hell is presented as figurative (Mosiah 3:27; cf. Mosiah 2:38-39). In other words, our concept of hell and its eternity is too complex to describe in a single phrase or sentence. It takes a bit of explaining, and in some respects it isn’t at all like the traditional Christian view. But consider how the Tanners oversimplify the issue by contrasting the Book of Mormon teaching that it is the devil who says “there is no hell” (2 Nephi 28:22) with certain statements of Latter-day Saint leaders that “there is no hell.” For instance, they quote John A. Widtsoe as follows (p. 198, emphasis in original):
All others, who are not classed as sons of perdition, will be “redeemed in the due time of the Lord”; that is, they will all be saved. The MEANEST SINNER will find some place in the heavenly realm…
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, THERE IS NO HELL. ALL will find a measure of salvation, … The gospel of Jesus Christ has NO HELL in the old proverbial sense. (Joseph Smith–Seeker After Truth, Salt Lake City, 1951, pp. 177-178).
The Tanners observe, “The Apostle John A. Widtsoe seemed to be teaching the very thing that the Book of Mormon condemned!” (p. 198). On the other hand, consider what that last paragraph has to say when we include the omitted text:
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there is no hell. All will find a measure of salvation; all must pay for any infringement of the law; but the payment will be as the Lord may decide. There is graded salvation. This may be a more terrible punishment: to feel that because of sin a man is here, when by a correct life, he might be higher. The gospel of Jesus Christ has no hell in the old proverbial sense.54
Clearly, Widtsoe was trying to explain how the Latter-day Saint concepts of salvation and damnation differ from “the old proverbial” definitions. In other words, there is a hell, and damnation, but it is nothing like what people have popularly believed for centuries.
Peculiar (and Questionable) Editorial Style
Another stock criticism of Mormonism–Shadow or Reality? has been that the Tanners’ unusual editorial style seems intended to distract the reader from parts of the quotation that might modify their hard-line conclusions.55 I have normally reproduced material the Tanners quote without the underlining and ALL CAPITALS that pepper every page of their work, but I have left their emphasis in the quotation of John A. Widtsoe immediately above to illustrate how this tactic is used. For instance, even in the part of the passage the Tanners reproduce, Widtsoe explained that his comments about there not being any hell did not apply to the sons of perdition, so the Tanners’ criticism here is unfounded, even if we do not take account of the missing text.
The Tanners object to the criticism of their editorial style, citing a few examples from the History of the Church and a book by Elder Mark E. Petersen to show that Latter-day Saint writers have sometimes used ALL CAPITALS for emphasis.56 However, the criticism has never been merely that they use various devices to denote emphasis, but that they overuse them to the point that it is distracting.
This is true even for people who are trying to critically evaluate the Tanners’ work. For example, their anonymous reviewer accuses them of being overzealous about finding passages in nineteenth-century literature that parallel the Book of Mormon, ignoring possible ancient parallels. In support of this charge, he notes that the Tanners had pointed to the fact that both the Book of Mormon and an 1827 edition of the Wayne Sentinel say that the ministry should be “without money and without price.” This historian points out, “A far older and better known antecedent for either or both is Isaiah 55:1.”57 The Tanners accuse their critic of skimming their work: “If he had carefully read Mormonism–Shadow or Reality? p. 68, he would have found that we already pointed this out.” They then quote the following passage from their book (p. 68, emphasis in original):
In the Wayne Sentinel (published in Joseph Smith’s neighborhood) for September 7, 1827, we find a copy of an “Epistle” from the “Yearly Meeting of Friends in London.” In this “Epistle” we find an attack on the paid ministry, stating that “the ministry of the Gospel is to be WITHOUT MONEY AND WITHOUT PRICE.” In the Book of Mormon, Alma 1:20, we read: “…they did impart the word of God, one with another, WITHOUT MONEY AND WITHOUT PRICE.” The words “without money and without price” also appear in Isaiah 55:1. Nevertheless, it is interesting that both the “Epistle” published in the Wayne Sentinel and the Book of Mormon use these words to attack a paid ministry.58
It should be pointed out that on page 68 of Mormonism–Shadow or Reality? the sentence about Isaiah 55:1 is not underlined. Therefore, in their response to their anonymous reviewer the Tanners have made it seem like this comment was more prominently featured than it actually was.
On the other hand, this is a fair response, and the Tanners’ critic clearly missed the mention of the Isaiah passage in their text. Instead, he should have used this as an example of the non sequitur: in other words, the conclusions arrived at are not supported by the evidence.”59 In both this case and the case of the Widtsoe quotation I have critiqued, the Tanners use their unusual editorial style to emphasize parts of quotations that seem to make their point if taken in isolation. However, in both cases the Tanners include (but do not emphasize) portions of the quotations that actually refute their criticism. (Incidentally, I performed an Internet search for the phrase without money and without price with the word ministry, and turned up approximately 1,900 results. It seems that everyone who wants to comment on paid ministry or the free distribution of God’s grace uses this verse. Why not the authors of the Book of Mormon? Even Paul seems to allude to this verse when he argues that an apostle has the right to be supported by the congregation, although Paul did not take advantage of this right. “What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:18). Therefore, we must either question the Tanners’ editorial honesty, their ability to make coherent arguments, or both.
The arguments I have presented above have highlighted the fact that most of the stock criticisms of the Tanners’ work are true of their tiny four-page chapter on the hereafter. However, I would like to add another criticism to the list that I have not noticed in other critiques. That is, sometimes the Tanners’ faultfinding zeal hits such a fevered pitch that they begin lobbing out criticisms of Mormonism that, on their face, can be seen to be irrational and not to be taken seriously.
For example, we have already seen that the Tanners accuse Joseph Smith of first teaching the classical “brimstone and pitchforks” sort of hell and then later that there is no hell. But the Tanners go further and supply a charge from the 7 June 1844 Nauvoo Expositor that Joseph Smith taught that “we would all go to Hell together, and convert it into a heaven, by casting the Devil out; and says he, Hell is by no means the place this world of fools suppose it to be, but on the contrary, it is quite an agreeable place” (p. 198, emphasis omitted). The Tanners support this charge using a comment by Joseph Smith: “I see no faults in the Church, and therefore let me be resurrected with the Saints, whether I ascend to heaven or descend to hell, or go to any other place. And if we go to hell, we will turn the devils out of doors and make a heaven of it” (p. 198).60 Any normal, rational person would conclude that the publishers of the Expositor were exaggerating the content of Joseph Smith’s comments, but not the Tanners.
With time, this tendency of the Tanners seems to be getting worse. For instance, their more recent work, Major Problems of Mormonism, appears to be an updated and condensed version ofMormonism–Shadow or Reality? In this newer work, the chapter on the hereafter covers much of the same ground but adds a few new charges.61 For example, they decry the injustice of the idea that Mormon women will be turned into “mere birth machines.” They go on to say that “although Mormon theology teaches that a woman can obtain ‘Godhood,’ it really amounts to almost nothing.” And why would that be? Because Mormons do not believe in “worship[ping]” our Heavenly Mother.62 Granted that the Tanners quote a few fringe Mormons to show that some people get worked up about this sort of thing, I still can honestly say that I have never in my life attended any gathering of Latter-day Saints where someone has referred to exalted women as “mere birth machines” or where women have expressed any angst about the fact that they will not necessarily be “worshipped.” Is that really how Latter-day Saints think about exaltation? Again–normal, rational people would readily recognize this as a gross caricature.
Further, the Tanners opine: “Even so, since Mormon theology limits Gods and Goddesses to physical bodies, it seems that it would be very difficult for either the ‘Heavenly Father’ or the ‘Heavenly Mother’ to give much individual attention to billions of children.”63 How should we know how God communicates to his children in the eternities? Do the Tanners offer any evidence that Mormons believe God is somehow limited by his physical body? Do the Tanners believe that Jesus is limited by his physical body?
And as if this were not enough to cause concern to any fair-minded person, the Tanners go on to rebuke the Mormons for our “ever-expanding hell.” The argument can be summarized something like this. Mormons often “ridicule” other Christians who believe that vast numbers of God’s children will be sent to everlasting hellfire, but Mormons believe that the devil and his angels (amounting to perhaps forty billion spirits, if demographers are right about the number of people who have inhabited the earth) will be consigned to “outer darkness” forever. And if this weren’t bad enough, the Latter-day Saint doctrine of eternal progression dictates that this number will keep expanding ad infinitum as more and more spirits are created in the eternities. They do a number of calculations and announce that Mormons are “forced by mathematics to conclude that eventually quadrillions of worlds will be created by the Gods every second and that this will go on forever and ever… [But] there is a very gloomy downside to the story since every second that passes quadrillions of spirits will become ‘sons of perdition’ and be lost forever.”64
Is this really what Mormon criticisms of the classic hellfire doctrine are about? Is it not, rather, that we cannot understand why God would create humans out of nothing and place them in situations where they inevitably fail to do those things that would keep them out of someplace where they are constantly tortured through eternity? Is it not more consistent with God’s justice to believe that people really do have free will, independent from God, and that we will be judged according to the desires of our hearts? Does it not seem more humane to suppose that God only sentences those who willfully and knowingly rebel against him to a fate of constant, unrelenting punishment?
Studied Ignorance and Complex Motives
I have shown here that the Tanners, at every turn, have left out or deemphasized source material that blatantly contradicts their argument. Why would the Tanners leave out more than two sentences from the middle of their quotation of John A. Widtsoe about the nonexistence of hell? Because the missing text refutes their heavy-handed interpretation of what he was trying to say. Why would the Tanners quote every Book of Mormon verse that talks about the eternity of hell and “either-or” descriptions of salvation and damnation but leave out those that talk about “eternal punishment” having a finite duration, reward “according to their works,” and mercy shown by God to those who sin in ignorance? Because those caveats utterly refute their thesis. Why would the Tanners look for parallels to the Book of Mormon “anti-Universalist” rhetoric in the nineteenth century, but neglect to find out whether such controversies and associated vocabulary were unique to that time period? Because such information would render their argument inconclusive. Why do they insist upon the most extreme possible interpretation of words like eternal in uniquely Latter-day Saint scriptures but ignore parallel Bible passages where Christians cannot possibly apply the same standard? Because such information would inhibit them from insisting that the Latter-day Saint scriptures contain blatant contradictions.
Jerald and Sandra Tanner do not seem to be interested in getting at the truth about Mormonism or in treating their former religion fairly. The care with which they have combed Latter-day Saint documents for material is, frankly, astounding. However, this observation makes me question the notion that they are entirely unaware of the distortions they introduce into their writing.65 They exhibit a sort of “studied ignorance,” where they assiduously avoid any information that would soften or refute their arguments. Given the amount of Latter-day Saint literature the Tanners have read, such ignorance must take a lot of effort to sustain.
In response to such charges, the Tanners claim that they try hard to be fair and cite various examples. For instance, they went against the anti-Mormon grain to condemn a forged “confession” of Oliver Cowdery and discount supposed new evidence that Solomon Spaulding wrote part of the Book of Mormon.66 Lawrence Foster adds:
Jerald stood almost alone among those studying Mormon history in publicly raising doubts about the authenticity of the “Salamander letter,” purportedly describing Joseph Smith’s early experiences that led to the production of the Book of Mormon. The vast majority of Mormon scholars had accepted as genuine this and other documents that subsequently have been shown to be forged by Mark W. Hofmann. Jerald, despite his desire to find evidence discrediting the conventional Mormon story, felt that something did not ring true about the letter, and he was prepared to voice his doubts publicly.67
Therefore, while it has to be admitted that the Tanners’ motives must be complex, their repeated twisting of Mormon positions and historical evidence has to be, in large part, attributed to what Foster calls their “deep disillusionment” and “sustained hostility” toward Mormonism.68 So whether their distortion of the evidence is conscious or not, it originates from ulterior motives.
But why bother trying to analyze the Tanners’ motives, instead of examining their claims and leaving it at that? I have already shown that the Tanners’ claims about the Latter-day Saint hereafter are bogus, but I feel that a more detailed examination of their motives is warranted here because there are many Latter-day Saints who share a similar mind-set and are therefore susceptible to the same faulty arguments. That is, the seemingly contradictory behavior of the Tanners appears to stem from their fundamentalist mind-set–a paradigm that is shared to some extent by many poorly informed Mormons.
Consider the Tanners’ treatment of the Book of Mormon in the chapter under review. They quote every passage from the Book of Mormon that seems to support their case but neglect to mention a number of passages that contradict their interpretation. For instance, while it is true that some passages in the Book of Mormon use black-and-white terminology to describe heaven and hell, others clarify that there are shades of gray in between.
The anonymous Latter-day Saint historian who critiqued Mormonism–Shadow or Reality? made the following observation:
The most important comment to be made about the approach of Jerald and Sandra Tanner to Mormonism is their selective use of evidence. The Tanners have published some very useful collections of excerpts and documents that otherwise would have to be read in the library-archives where they are located. Making documents available to the reading public and analyzing a subject through those documents are central features of the practice of history. But it is perspective–being able to see an issue in its totality and presenting its component parts in their relationships to each other and to the whole–that is the purpose and goal of writing history… It is fair to say also that some Mormon defenders have also done equal disservice to the LDS Church by adopting the same method in reverse: presenting carefully chosen evidence that shows only the positive side of Mormonism, while ignoring or denying the existence of contrary evidence. If Mormon defenders have on occasion been guilty of some of the polemical techniques used by the Tanners, that still does not justify or sanctify distortion.69
Lawrence Foster contrasts the approach of the Tanners with that of Mormon historians who try to “understand and appreciate the remarkably complex and multifaceted movement that constitutes Mormonism,” by “sift[ing] through all pertinent evidence in order to reconstruct the fullest possible picture of the past and its significance for the present.”
By contrast, the Tanners sound like high school debaters. Every bit of evidence, even if it could be most plausibly present[ed] in a positive way, is represented as yet another nail in the coffin being prepared for the Mormon church. There is no spectrum of colors, only blacks and whites, good guys and villains, in the Tanners’ published writings. Even when they backhandedly praise objective Mormon historical scholarship, they do so primarily as a means of twisting that scholarship for use as yet another debater’s ploy to attack the remaining–and in their eyes insurmountable–Mormon deficiencies.70
The Tanners retort that they never intended to produce a balanced history, but rather to report on problems with Mormon truth claims they had found during the course of their research.
Unlike Dr. Clandestine, we do not profess to be “professionally trained” historians, and have never claimed to be writing an actual history of the Mormon Church… Although we have tried to be honest about the matters we deal with, we have not attempted to present all the good things which the Church has done. We feel that a person can read about these things in the Church’s many publications. After all, the Church spends millions of dollars to polish its own image in the eyes of the world.71
Here the Tanners have missed the point. The problem is not only that they have focused on “negatives” without including “positives.” Rather, their fanatical search for negatives has led them to actually introduce distortions, so that they find negatives (such as their supposed “contradictions”) where they do not actually exist.
But we can at least acknowledge that the Tanners have been instrumental in stimulating us to tie up loose ends and shed excess baggage with respect to our religious faith. As Lawrence Foster observes: “Yet if the Tanners’ own work falls short as history, it nevertheless has helped stimulate historical studies. Jerald is a brilliant analyst of detail, with an almost uncanny ability to spot textual inconsistencies which call for explanation.” He goes on, “By compiling most of the major published sources bearing on controversial topics in Mormonism, the Tanners have highlighted issues which need to be resolved.”72
As I finish typing this manuscript, I notice that I have reached page 26, using a single-spaced format and 12 point Times font. And while I believe I have effectively refuted all the major points in chapter 14 of Mormonism–Shadow or Reality? this chapter represents only four pages out of over six hundred. My point is that the Tanners’ logic is so twisted, and their arguments so rife with half-truths and misrepresentations, that it would take an enormous amount of space to deconstruct all of it. Therefore, I give credit to the Tanners for spurring Latter-day Saint believers to go beyond the sort of naive fundamentalist notions upon which the Tanners militantly insist, but I cannot recommend their masterwork to anyone who wants to understand Mormonism. If so many of the stock criticisms of the Tanners’ work can be verified within the space of four pages, it seems reasonable to suppose that the rest of their writing is similarly flawed.
1 Karl Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism: The Attack on “Romanism” by “Bible Christians” (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1988), 29.
2 Barry R. Bickmore, “A Passion for Faultfinding: The Deconversion of a Former Catholic Priest,” review of When Mormons Call: Answering Mormon Missionaries at Your Door and Inside Mormonism: What Mormons Really Believe, by Isaiah Bennett, FARMS Review of Books 13/2 (2001): 201-281.
3 Danel W. Bachman, “The Other Side of the Coin: A Source Review of Norman Geisler’s Chapter,” review of “Scripture,” in The Counterfeit Gospel of Mormonism, by Norman L. Geisler,FARMS Review of Books 12/1 (2000): 175-213.
4 Alma Allred, “Coin of the Realm: Beware of Specious Specie,” review of “Scripture,” in The Counterfeit Gospel of Mormonism, by Norman L. Geisler, FARMS Review of Books 12/1 (2000): 137-174.
5 A classic response was written by an anonymous Latter-day Saint historian. Jerald and Sandra Tanners’ Distorted View of Mormonism: A Response to “Mormonism-Shadow or Reality?” (Salt Lake City, 1977). This essay has been reprinted in several forms and is available on the Internet at www.fairlds.org/Misc/Tanners_Distorted_View_of_Mormonism.html (accessed 5 April 2004). For a response, see Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Answering Dr. Clandestine: A Response to the Anonymous LDS Historian, enl. ed. (Salt Lake City: Modern Microfilm, 1978). Lawrence Foster has critiqued the Tanners’ work in “Career Apostates: Reflections on the Works of Jerald and Sandra Tanner,” Dialogue 17/2 (1984): 35-60; and in “Apostate Believers: Jerald and Sandra Tanner’s Encounter with Mormon History,” in Differing Visions: Dissenters in Mormon History, ed. Roger D. Launius and Linda Thatcher (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 343-365. Foster analyzes the debate between the Tanners and “Dr. Clandestine” in “Career Apostates,” 50-53. While he notes that the Tanners score a number of points by disarming a few examples, his overall assessment is that the review by “Dr. Clandestine” is a skillful, and generally correct, assessment of the Tanners’ work and that the Tanners’ response shows that they “are much more adept at identifying the trees than seeing the forest”; and it “would seem to be the best possible vindication of the argument of their anonymous critic that they lack a sense of balance and perspective” (quotations on p. 52). For other useful reviews of Mormonism-Shadow or Reality? see Ian G. Barber, What Mormonism Isn’t (Auckland, New Zealand: Pioneer Books, 1981); and Matthew Roper, review of Mormonism: Shadow or Reality? by Jerald Tanner and Sandra Tanner, FARMS Review of Books 4/1 (1992): 169-215.
6 Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism, 29.
7 The Tanners make this claim without admitting to any serious mistakes. They claim that their anonymous critic “has been almost completely one-sided in his presentation. He chooses only the ‘most negative evidence’ and fails to note many of the contributions we have made to the study of Mormon history.” Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Answering Dr. Clandestine, 20. “Fortunately, however, the ammunition which they used was defective, and our work stands unscathed from the attack” (ibid, 21).
8 The Tanners cite the Gospel Advocate, 3 March 1826, 58. The quotation is indeed found on page 58, but the statement, when taken in context, actually works against the Tanners’ argument. The statement is published in a circular letter by the Reverend Mr. Orthos, who writes that it is “infidel preachers” that “blasphemiously [sic] assert that there is neither hell nor devil.” That “there is neither hell nor devil” is not the belief of the Reverend Mr. Orthos; rather, he asserts that God’s vengeance is very real, and, in fact, his purpose in writing is to encourage his “brethren in the ministry” to “come forward like men and meet this denomination of infidels upon their own ground.” For a more authoritative statement on Universalist beliefs than that presented by the Tanners, refer to Gospel Advocate, 17 February 1826, 47: “The Universalist believes that, though all men will ultimately enjoy happiness, still ‘every one that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done, and there is no respect of persons;’ that, though sin shall, in the end, be finished, still every transgression and disobedience shall receive a just recompense of reward; that ‘the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth, much more the wicked and the sinner.'” I thank Emily Ellsworth for her research on this and the following three notes.
9 The Tanners cite the Gospel Advocate, 17 February 1826, 123. This page number could not be verified, as the issue for 17 February 1826 ranges from pages 41 to 48.
10 The Tanners cite the Gospel Advocate, 17 February 1826, 158. Again, this page number could not be verified.
11 The Tanners cite the Gospel Advocate, 19 January 1827, n.p. The quotation is found on page 404, but in this passage the belief is credited more specifically to the Unitarians.
12 J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, rev. ed. (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978), 483-484.
13 Tanners’ Distorted View, 19.
14 Barry R. Bickmore, Restoring the Ancient Church: Joseph Smith and Early Christianity (Ben Lomond, CA: FAIR, 1999). Compare Daniel C. Peterson and Stephen D. Ricks, Offenders for a Word: How Anti-Mormons Play Word Games to Attack the Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Aspen Books, 1992); and Hugh W. Nibley, Mormonism and Early Christianity (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1987).
15 Barry R. Bickmore, “Mormonism in the Early Jewish-Christian Milieu” (lecture, First Annual Mormon Apologetics Conference [FAIR], 1999). The text of this essay can be found at www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/1999_Mormonism_in_the_Early_Jewish_Christian_Milieu.html (accessed 5 April 2004).
16 Tanners’ Distorted View, 50.
17 Roper, review of Mormonism: Shadow or Reality? 179.
18 Tanners’ Distorted View, 22-23.
19 Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), 310.
20 George Brantl, ed., Catholicism (New York: Braziller, 1961), 232-237.
21 Bo Reicke, “Hell,” in The Oxford Companion to the Bible, ed. Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), 277.
22 Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 5, in Ante-Nicene Fathers (hereafter ANF), ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (1885; reprint, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), 1:197; cf. J. G. Davies, The Early Christian Church (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1965), 100.
23 Tertullian, A Treatise on the Soul 58 (ANF 3:234-235).
24 Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 80 (ANF 1:239, brackets in original); cf. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5.31.2 (ANF 1:560).
25 I do not intend to imply that the gnostics were necessarily wrong on every issue. For example, the Tanners’ anonymous reviewer critiqued them for noting parallels between the Mormon temple ceremonies and Masonic rituals, but neglected to note ancient parallels, such as with rituals described in the gnostic Gospel of Philip. Tanners’ Distorted View, 21-22. The Tanners respond that: “We feel that Dr. Clandestine and other Mormon scholars who use the Nag Hammadi documents to try to show that early Christians had doctrines similar to Mormonism are making a serious mistake. To begin with, the Nag Hammadi texts came from a group known as gnostics. Charles F. Pfeiffer says that ‘Gnosticism appropriated Christian terminology to express its essentially un-Christian philosophy.’ (The Biblical World, p. 410).” Tanner and Tanner, Answering Dr. Clandestine, 49.
While this may be essentially true, it is also true that the gnostics preserved quite a few authentic Jewish Christian beliefs and practices. Since Latter-day Saints believe that all branches of postapostolic Christianity were apostate in one way or another, it is completely understandable that we would sometimes point to gnostic beliefs and practices as possible holdovers. This is especially true in this case, where it has been shown that the gnostics were not the only Christians to preserve rituals similar to Latter-day Saint temple ceremonies. For example, see Barry R. Bickmore, “Them Sneaky Early Christians,” review of Hidden Wisdom: Esoteric Traditions and the Roots of Christian Mysticism, by Guy G. Stroumsa, FARMS Review of Books 12/1 (2000): 35-56. See William J. Hamblin’s discussion of the Secret Gospel of Mark in “Aspects of an Early Christian Initiation Ritual,” in By Study and Also by Faith: Essays in Honor of Hugh W. Nibley, ed. John M. Lundquist and Stephen D. Ricks (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1990), 1:201-221. However, the Tanners are in a different situation. From their perspective, why would the gnostics be the only ones to preserve their distinctive beliefs? Where were all the early fundamentalists running around?
26 Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 357.
27 Jerome, Letter 124:7, quoting Origen, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, series 2, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (reprint, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), 6:240-241.
28 Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 6.14 (ANF 2:505).
29 Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 325.
30 Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 219.
31 Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 6.6 (ANF 2:491).
32 Irenaeus, Against Heresies 4.27.2 (ANF 1:499), brackets in original.
33 Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 6.6 (ANF 2:490).
34 Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1955), 2:7, emphasis omitted.
35 Origen, De Principiis 2.10.2 (ANF 4:294).
36 Jean Daniélou, The Theology of Jewish Christianity, trans. John A. Baker (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1964), 174.
37 Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 6.14 (ANF 2:506).
38 Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 746.
39 McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 176-177.
40 Similar concepts were also expressed by the apostle Paul. While Paul did state that “where no law is, there is no transgression” (Romans 4:15), he also made clear that the Gentiles still needed the atonement of Christ, because their consciences would condemn them. “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another” (Romans 2:14-15). Therefore, even those who have never had the whole gospel preached to them will be condemned by their works.
41 Orson Pratt, in Journal of Discourses, 20:70.
42 Orson Pratt, in Journal of Discourses, 20:68.
43 Tanners’ Distorted View, 45.
44 Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 2:314.
45 Mark L. McConkie, ed., Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1989), 231.
46 Tanners’ Distorted View, 47-57.
47 William H. Barnes, “Inspiration and Inerrancy,” in Oxford Companion to the Bible, 304. The Tanners chastise their anonymous critic for appealing to liberal biblical scholarship that undermines the credibility of the Bible in order to fend off attacks on the Book of Mormon. Tanner and Tanner, Answering Dr. Clandestine, 16-20. Some of their points are reasonable, and I do not have the time or inclination to go into a long discussion of biblical textual criticism. However, I wish to point out that the Tanners can hardly brush aside a professor at an Assemblies of God seminary as a liberal atheist bent on attacking the credibility of the Bible. Rather, it seems apparent that he is trying to salvage the credibility of the Bible in the face of criticism very similar to the sort the Tanners dish out upon Latter-day Saint texts. My conclusion is that the anonymous critic of the Tanners is in essence correct, and the Tanners are simply fundamentalists of the most extreme sort.
48 Foster, “Apostate Believers,” 346, 349.
49 Evening and the Morning Star, June 1832, 10. The Tanners give July 1832, 2, as the reference.
50 James Strong, The New Strong’s Complete Dictionary of Bible Words (Nashville: Nelson, 1996), 470.
51 Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 1:11.
52 John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations: 3 Volumes, arr. G. Homer Durham (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1960), 213-214.
53 For example, see Tanners’ Distorted View, 26-27.
54 John A. Widtsoe, Joseph Smith: Seeker after Truth, Prophet of God (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1951), 178.
55 For example, see Tanners’ Distorted View, 27-28.
56 Tanner and Tanner, Answering Dr. Clandestine, 36.
57 Tanners’ Distorted View, 50.
58 Tanner and Tanner, Answering Dr. Clandestine, 26.
59 Tanners’ Distorted View, 18.
60 Joseph Smith, in History of the Church, 5:517.
61 Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Major Problems of Mormonism (Salt Lake City: Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1989), 207-216.
62 Ibid, 210-211, emphasis omitted.
63 Ibid, 212.
64 Ibid, 214-215, emphasis in original.
65 Compare the following statement from the Tanners’ anonymous critic: “Although the most conscientious and honest researcher can overlook pertinent sources of information, the repeated omissions of evidence by the Tanners suggest an intentional avoidance of sources that modify or refute their caustic interpretations of Mormon history.” Tanners’ Distorted View, 17.
66 Tanner and Tanner, Answering Dr. Clandestine, 20.
67 Foster, “Apostate Believers,” 351-352.
68 Foster, “Apostate Believers,” 346. I have here paraphrased the exact quotation, which is, “Why was the Tanners’ disillusionment with Mormonism so deep and their hostility toward it so sustained?” One reason I continue to question the motives of the Tanners is pointed out by Foster as well. Commenting on their response to their anonymous reviewer, Foster writes, “Curiously, however, the Tanners try to defend themselves against the charge that they are guilty of using the “Straw Man” approach as a debater’s ploy, by showing that the historian who criticized them had also, in one instance, been guilty of the same error.” Foster, “Career Apostates,” 52.
69 Tanners’ Distorted View, 4.
70 Foster, “Apostate Believers,” 350.
71 Tanner and Tanner, Answering Dr. Clandestine, 21.
72 Foster, “Career Apostates,” 47.