1405-1406: Sandra Tanner – Reflections on Mark Hofmann and “Murder Among the Mormons”
March 10, 2021
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!!!!
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.