Part 1: Sandra shares her memories and experiences with Mark Hofmann.
Part 2: Sandra shares her reflections on “Murder Among the Mormons.”
This week Mormonism and the world (basically) have been captivated by the new Netflix Documentary “Murder Among the Mormons” – which covers the Salt Lake City bombings of 1985, and is currently #2 in the USA on Netflix. (SPOILER ALERT!!!!)
While reactions to the documentary (produced & directed by friends Jared Hess and Tyler Measom) have been universally SUPER positive, many progressive and post-Mormons have expressed a wish that the documentary would have spent more time discussing the role of the Mormon church in: a) creating the environment that gave rise to the bombings, b) attempting to cover up/hide its problematic history, and c) obstruct or hinder the investigation of the bombings.
I this epic, 2-part, 6 hour interview with Mormon/Ex-Mormon legend Sandra Tanner, we cover many of the questions/topics/issues that progressive and post-Mormons have been wanting to know about the Mormon church, Mark Hofmann, the bombings, and the investigations, such as:
- What do we know about Mark Hofmann’s childhood and adolescent years?
- When and how did Mark Hofmann lose his Mormon faith?
- What are some of the direct and undeniable similarities between Joseph Smith and Mark Hofmann?
- What can we ascertain about Mark Hofmann’s possible motives for forgery?
- What issues regarding Mormon Church truth claims were being discussed publicly during Mark Hofmann’s childhood and adolescence years, and what written materials may have influenced him?
- What behavior on the part of the Mormon church in the 1960s and 1970s may have served as motivating factors for Hofmann? Particularly, to what extent did the LDS Church participate in overt deception of its members that could have influenced him to turn on the church?
- What are Sandra’s memories of Hofmann and his close associates like Shannon Flynn, Brent Metcalfe, Curt Bench, Lyn Jacobs, Brent Ashworth, etc.? Were any of them suspected as accomplices?
- What do we know about the main Mormon-related Hofmann forgeries, and why were each relevant from a Mormon.history perspective? How did Hofmann’s forgeries intersect with and challenge Mormon church truth claims? How did they stand to harm the church?
- What role did the Mormon church play in hiding and/or covering up Hofmann’s forgeries?
- Perhaps most importantly, Sandra recounts the inspiring story of her husband, Jerald Tanner, discovering that Hofmann’s Salamander Letter was a forgery a FULL YEAR before the bombings, how she and Jerald fought about his discovery, what Hofmann’s reaction was to Jerald’s discovery, and how it was received in the larger Mormon studies and news community (spoiler alert: it was largely ignored).
- Sandra also movingly discusses how she and Jerald were largely ignored and marginalized by the broader Mormon history community, including being denied a display table at Sunstone, and how many Mormon history scholars would take advantage of the Tanner’s research without giving them any credit or citations. She cites as the main reason of this mistreatment her and Jerald’s willingness to question Joseph Smith’s sincerity – which remains a taboo in the Mormon studies community to this day.
- Sandra recounts her memories of the bombings and of the investigations.
- Perhaps most importantly, what responsibility does the Mormon church play in contributing to the environment and led to the bombings?
All this, and so much more. This is a 6 hour interview.
- Part 1 (4 hours) talks mostly about Sandra’s memories during and after the bombings.
- Part 2 (2 hours) focuses more on Sandra’s direct reactions to the documentary Murder Among the Mormons.
For your convenience we have created YouTube time codes that will let you know which parts of the videos you can jump to (if you want to jump around or refer certain parts to friends).
We hope you enjoy!!!!!!! And a HUGE thanks to Sandra (and Jerald) Tanner for sharing with us her/their historic insight. For me, this was a true honor. MORE TO COME!!!!
– John Dehlin (March 10, 2021)
P.S. If you value Sandra and her contributions to Mormon history, please support Sandra Tanner and Utah Lighthouse Ministry with your donations!!!
Part 1 Timecodes:
00:07:13 – Summary of Sandra’s background
00:14:51 – Sandra’s understanding of Mark Hofmann’s early life & beliefs
00:19:39 – Hofmann’s exposure to treasure digging and LDS truth claims
00:32:02 – Parallels between Mark Hofmann and Joseph Smith
00:36:12 – Theories surrounding the Golden Plates & Book of Mormon
00:45:30 – Speculations on Mark Hofmann’s faith crisis
00:48:17 – Sandra discusses Shannon Flynn
00:55:53 – More on Hofmann’s mission, & his research into Mormon history
00:57:03 – Salamander Letter
00:58:50 – Sandra on intentional deception by LDS Church leaders
01:00:58 – Hofmann first comes to Utah Lighthouse Ministry in 1978 to share first known forgery – on the 2nd Anointing
01:06:19 – Mark’s handwriting – juvenile “chicken scratch”
01:07:10 – The beginning of a discussion of Mark Hofmann’s possible motives
01:09:07 – Mark Hofmann’s lack of empathy – callousness with the bombings.
01:12:44 – Mark Hofmann’s ego & his desire to pull off the “ultimate deception”
01:14:23 – Hofmann’s desire to embarrass the church & expose the faults their “power of discernment”
01:18:50 – More comparisons between Joseph Smith and Mark Hofmann – Around their “Ponzi schemes” unraveling into chaos and violence
01:20:56 – Discussion of Anthon transcript – Hofmann’s first major (known) Mormon forgery
01:28:34 – Jerald Tanner first uncovers forgery in 1960s – Oliver Cowdery pamphlet
01:31:21 – Jerald Tanner received pushback on forgery claims – Fawn Brodie and Juanita Brooks state they will continue to use the document
01:35:19 – Discussion of original Anthon transcript
01:39:08 – Hofmann’s Joseph Smith III Succession Forgery
01:45:58 – Hofmann trying to paint Brigham Young in a bad light.
01:52:11 – Brent Ashworth describing Hofmann “fishing” for documents that collectors might want
01:53:01 – Hofmann begins a bidding war over his Joseph Smith III Succession document
01:54:11 – LDS church “front buyers”
01:57:09 – Hofmann’s claim to have the McLellin collection
02:05:19 – Lyn Jacobs & Sandra’s thoughts on his omission from the “Murder Among the Mormons” documentary
02:08:18 – A discussion of frequent questions regarding Hofmann’s sexuality
02:14:09 – Hofmann’s 1825 Letter from Joseph Smith to Josiah Stowell
02:17:42 – What LDS Church leaders knew about Joseph Smith’s use of folk magic and treasure digging
02:21:15 – The Smith family merging of folk magic with Christianity – Hyrum Smith’s use of “magic documents” & Joseph Smith’s use of the “Jupiter Talisman”
02:28:52 – LDS General Authorities consciously sanitizing Mormon church history (Hinckley, Oaks, Turley)
02:31:40 – Church Patriarch Smith showing magical papers at LDS church firesides in the 20th century
02:32:50 – Wilford C. Wood “buying up” valuable LDS Church artifacts
02:36:29 – Smearing critics – tragic story of LDS Church translator, Stan Larson, losing his testimony of Book of Mormon Historicity, and being forced out of LDS Church employment.
02:42:57 – Other LDS Scholars forced out or fired
02:44:40 – Discussion of top LDS Church leaders knowing the problems with the church’s core truth claims, but continuing to mislead members intentionally
02:46:55 – The “rule” that Joseph Smith can’t be known as an intentional deceiver
02:49:56 – Did Mormon General Authority Hugh B. Brown admit that he did not believe in Book of Abraham historicity to Thomas Ferguson?
02:51:46 – Did Mormon General Authority B.H. Roberts loose his faith in Book of Mormon historicity?
02:59:51 – The integrity of Jerald Tanner.
03:05:53 – Martin Harris as one of the three witnesses
03:07:26 – Potential motives and means for deception
03:12:39 – Do LDS General Authorities have the gift of discernment? The Anthon Manuscript and photo of Hofmann with LDS General Authorities
03:16:25 – Questioning authenticity of salamander letter
03:32:13 – “Salamander or Moroni?” pamphlet for Sunstone Symposium
03:46:07 – The unwritten rule of the Mormon history community – “Don’t question Joseph Smith’s sincerity, or face marginalization”
03:52:51 – How Jerald and Sandra Tanner were disrespected by the Mormon history community & treatment of the Tanners by Dialogue and Sunstone (Tanners not allowed to have display table at Sunstone)
03:56:13 – Begrudging acceptance of Tanners after Jerald is vindicated.
04:01:01 – How Sandra’s work affected the relationship with her sister, who was embarrassed by her work
04:03:05 – God was Sandra’s motivation to keep going.
04:07:41 – The McLellin papers & other Hofmann forgeries
04:09:11 – Sandra’s discussion of Richard Turley’s book on Hofmann, Victims, & Mormon church’s obstruction of the murder investigation
04:13:47 – Hofmann’s motives for murder & conviction
04:19:27 – Discussion of first murder
04:23:13 – Brent Ashworth as potential target of Hofmann’s 3rd bomb
04:33:04 – Mark Hofmann’s plan to forge the lost 116 pages of the Book of Mormon
Part 2 Timecodes:
00:01:32 – Sandra’s impressions of “Murder Among the Mormons”
00:14:39 – How the LDS church was portrayed in the documentary – positive vs. negative
00:21:06 – Could this documentary pose a challenge to some member’s faith?
00:23:16 – Rick Turley’s role in the documentary & lawyers as church “historians”
00:30:20 – Was it smart for “Murder Among the Mormons” to not be a “hit piece” in the LDS church?
00:42:11 – How the story is being revived.
00:51:15 – Could Hofmann have had any accomplices’?
00:54:44 – Heroes & villiains of the story
01:00:35 – Culpability of the LDS church & their obstructing of justice.
01:04:13 – Sandra’s recommendations for books on this subject.
01:10:47 – Legacy of the Hofmann scandal & its impact on Mormonism.
01:22:56 – “Lying for the Lord” & how Joseph Smith set a president of dishonesty within the church.
01:28:04 – Why people stay in the church after they have lost their faith.
01:32:21 – Could there be another event like this that threatens the church?
01:34:35 – Sandra’s predictions for the future of Mormonism.
01:39:48 – Upcoming biography on Jerald & Sandra Tanner.
01:43:41 – Sandra’s experiences from her first interview on Mormon Stories Podcast.
01:50:07 – Final reflections on Jerald Tanner.
01:54:21 – Closing remarks.
It wasn’t mentioned in the interview, but near the end of Jerald’s article “Moroni or Salamander” there is this revealing statement from Mark Hofmann himself:
In an interview with Sunstone Review, September 1982, page 16, Mark
Hofmann made these comments concerning forgeries:
There have been all kinds of Lincoln forgeries . . . To
date that hasn’t been a real problem with Mormon
documents. Now, however, with the publicity that’s been
given the tremendous amount of money to be realized
(for example, the Trib mentioned a $30,000 figure for the
Lucy Mack Smith letter), there may be some temptation
Love love love Sandra!! So sharp, factual, friendly and comfortable in her demeanor. She’s Amazing!! Going strong at 80!!
The Documentary is informative. But the overall purpose of it still eludes me. Although murder is frown upon by the community is not entirely unknown. If anything at all the lack of recognition by Mark’s parents on his distancing of scripture is really disturbing. I wonder if this is an underlaying problem that pervades the community at large. Mark’s prowess and ingenuity went to waste on his parent’s and teachers watch. Too much heaven on their minds?
I’m wondering why you haven’t asked about Elder High Pinock and his $183,000 signature loan. I believe that was highly significant discovery by the investigator brought in from outside the mormon cult that help people recognize something obvious to an outsider, that people within the mormon culture or even in the state of utah were not seeing. Also, it seems like High Pinock went i oblivion after all this. Did Hugh Pinock have his spiritual awakening and become a nonbeliever. Was Pinock sent to oblivion by the church or even paid a huge NDA to keep quiet? Sincerely, Jay Larsen
I believe he died “within the covenant” in a good ol’ clean bar like Wesley Hardin’ Jay. No public issues with the loan I believe.
Excellent interview! The last two hours seem to be missing. The video ends a little after the 4 hour mark while Sandra is still speaking
Wonderful. Great show…thanks for doing this!!
Oh dear Sandra and Jerald (and definitely you too John!) Thank you so much for the years (and lifetimes!) of work you guys have put in. I am so grateful for what you have done for the world. Because of you I have a wealth of information to guide me through deconstructing my faith. On top of that, and even more valuable to me, is that because of your progressive lives, and the many, many sacrifices you had to make, my faith journey isn’t as frowned upon, or as lonely, as it would have been if I didn’t have amazing people like you paving the way. You lived that life so that many after you didn’t have to. I know the church talks a lot about service, but THIS is what living a life in the service of others looks like to me.
You are all heroes, truly. I admire you so much.
Sandra’s one liners are definitely my favorite thing about this interview. She has the most contagious, spunky personality!
Thank you for sharing this with us!
Sandra Tanner is a living Legend! Thank you, John, for interviewing her. Her work has been invaluable in laying groundwork for many important critiques and expose’ in Mormon history. Thank you Sandra for your intellect, integrity, courage and keen perception and ability to discern fact from fiction. I would look to Sandra as a more capable “Prophet” any day over any Mormon “Prophet”
To me the documentary is the moral equivalent of a Gospel Topics Essay about the Hofmann situation. Other producers may have been nosing around about doing the story. The Church didn’t want to be put in the position of refusing to be interviewed not to mention having the full story of the Tanners’ role being told. The documentary put enough lipstick on that pig to make the Church look less dumb.
Yes. Please have her on in a series of interviews about the content of her research. It’s extremely interesting to those of us who don’t know about her research
Thank you. She’s wonderful. And so positive and happy. I love her
There is NO WAY the leaders of the church believe in the Mormon God nor that Joseph Smith was a true prophet.
I think its fairly obvious that his intention was to expose the leaders and their deceptions. Because he was clearly a classic sociopath from the beginning, he works within that wheel house to come up with and carry out a plan that is true to the characteristics of a sosiopath.
A sociopath is very capable of living a seemingly normal life with wife, children, etc, exhibiting the full gamut of emotions etc. Its just that for a sociopath, the emotions they exhibit are mostly with regard to what personally affects him. In that respect , it is genuine, even though very narrowly limited. Since the Mormon church provides such a specific script for living , down to the underwear…it would have been relatively easy for him to disguise his darker side and just follow the script without triggering suspicion.
The hyper moral context of the LDS culture would have given him the perfect rationale that the end justifies the means. Whatever he has to do to satisfy this obsessive intention to double cross the brethren can be excused as worth while. His lack of empathy as a sociopath just more easily afforded him to include options such as making bombs, friends being killed and so on.
Many sick sociopaths have comfortably found anonymity in the mormon church for a time…while very diabolic schemes and actions are afloat going undetected. That would be a fascinating topic to explore…..how is it that the moron church is such a great place for sociopaths and predators to act out their evil deeds right under the noses of largely decent people?
The sense that his extreme actions were justified, was not an altruistic one. It was simply , that the brethren deserved being exposed and the satisfaction that he could be clever enough to outsmart a 200 year ruse, was what he wanted. That is a very sociopathic trait as well…that they are smarter than everyone else, experts included and they very much live to act that out.
I dont believe that he was ever motivated to improve or help members of the church…that was very much beside the point as evidenced by his actions.
—you need a Psychiatrist.
Regarding 26:30 (Part 2) discussion about intelligence and belief, how we arrive at conclusions emotionally and then use our intelligence to support our positions – see the book The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt. It’s a good explanation of this, based on studies in moral foundations.
You will need a VERY large place for her meeting.
I honestly could have watched twice or three times as much of any interviews with Sandra Tanner. Her integrity, her humility, and her grasp of the issues inspire.
I smiled at her self-deprecating description of Jerald’s and her formal educations as their being “dummies.” Really??? May I please point out that they discovered and presented the problems with early church history long before “the learned and studied” were earning their college credentials. Uh, that’s not the mark of a lack of intelligence.
Thank you, John, for the presenting to us the treat which is Sandra Tanner!