Michael Quinn has been a very prominent Mormon historian since at least the 1980s. I asked Michael if he had met Mark Hofmann, the bomber and forger. Listen to Quinn on Hofmann! Michael indicates that he may have inadvertently given Mark some ideas for forgeries!
GT: So he probably got some ideas for his forgeries from you.
Michael: And he may have from things I published. Yeah, because typically I would talk about things that weren’t available that were central, like I published an article about the Council of Fifty minutes and the Council of Fifty’s history and I commented about what I thought was in those minutes that I had not seen of the Nauvoo Council of Fifty. And so, I would do this about other documents like I wrote about the blessings that Joseph Smith, III had received from his father and that obviously was something that Mark Hofmann paid attention to.
I also asked Michael if he was worried about being targeted by bombs.
Michael: I had a friend who worked with the state attorney, U.S. attorney was in his office and this long-time friend of mine called and said, “Don’t go back home, go and stay with us because no one would think of us,” him and his wife. And so, he provided more than a week I think a week or two weeks of residence for me during this period.
And then he told me, “When you go back, look under your car for wires,” and for years after this, following his advice, anytime I got a package I wasn’t expecting, I would take it to the post office and run it through their x-ray machine to see if there were any machines in it. And so yeah, I was paranoid.
Check out our conversation!
Don’t forget to check out our other conversations with Michael!
We’ve talked a lot about Jerald Tanner, but you may not know very much about his life and his demise. His wife, Sandra Tanner will talk about Jerald growing up, as well as his studies of Mormon history.
Sandra: Jerald was a failure in school. If you looked at his high school records, you would say there is no way this guy would ever end up doing research and writing. I mean, when he went to the University of Utah and I don’t know how he got in. His grades were terrible in high school. It just, I guess it speaks to there weren’t many kids going to university from Utah at that time or something that they would even let him go. But he had to take remedial English, which was best thing that could’ve happened to him because it spiffed him up on a lot of English stuff he needed to know. But no, Jerald had very bad eyesight and as a kid, the doctor said his eyes were failing and told his parents not to encourage them to read anything. Don’t let him strain his eyes or use them for anything.
So he was not encouraged in any way to spend time in books. I mean, his dad was a graduate from BYU. He came from an educated family. The Tanners have been professors at BYU and you know, I mean the family line of the Tanners was an educated family, but he was not given encouragement to read it all. Then when he got to be a teen, well then, well they finally figured out he needed glasses, but his eyes were so bad that Jerald wore the first contact lens and I have them over home. They’re the size of a quarter.
Did you know the Tanners still believed in the Book of Mormon even after they left the LDS Church?
Sandra: As ex-Mormons, we still believed the Book of Mormon for a couple of years there, and our original research was to vindicate the Book of Mormon that the rest of Mormonism. You can believe the Book of Mormon. You don’t have to accept the rest of this stuff. You know, you can scrap Joseph Smith and Brigham Young and all that stuff and just go with the Bible and Book of Mormon. But then we started having people challenge us.
Well, why would you accept the Book of Mormon if you can see that Joseph Smith made up the rest of this stuff. What makes you think you didn’t make up the Book of Mormon? So, then we went into a deep study of American history, American Indians, and sources for the Book of Mormon and archeology and all those things. And so, we finally decided, well, there doesn’t appear to be any historical evidence for the Book of Mormon as an ancient text. So, we can’t keep endorsing that. So, we set it aside, just went back to being Christians and following the Bible.
We will also talk about the end of his life.
Sandra: But then one night we’re watching a Jazz basketball game on TV, and I think it was, well it must have been the end of the first quarter or start of the second or something. And the score was like 28 to 32 and the Jazz were down, and Jerald turned to me and he says, “How much are we down by?”
And it just hit me. My whole world collapsed at that moment. Jerald was an ace on math. Now it doesn’t show from his school records, but he really was. He could do math in his head just perfectly. And to ask me what the difference was between 28 and 32, everything came together of all those little idiosyncrasies, the not remembering things, the misplaced items, and it all came together at that point. I thought, “Oh, my word, he’s got a memory issue. He’s got a problem, this could be Alzheimer’s.”
Check out our conversation… Don’t forget to check out our previous 3 parts!
We’re going to talk about an Oliver Cowdery forgery, unrelated to the Hofmann forgeries, and find out how Jerald Tanner concluded this Cowdery document was fake. It was good training when Mark Hofmann was peddling fake documents.
And so this would raise questions about the whole scenario of how the Book of Mormon really came about. Was it a conspiracy of Rigdon and Smith or something, you know? And so, here is this BYU professor challenging us that, “I don’t think you can prove the Cowdery defense is a legitimate pamphlet by Cowdrey.”
So Jerald got into a real study of that and finally concluded that Anderson was right. The document, you can’t find anyone mentioning the document before around 1900. And it seemed odd that David Whitmer, Cowdery’s brother-in-law wouldn’t have mentioned such a pamphlet when Whitmer wrote “An Address to All Believers in Christ” in 1887. Whitmer didn’t mention this. And so, we couldn’t. We did a lot of research trying to figure out if the Cowdery pamphlet could have been printed at the date it said in the town it said. I went up to the U and did research on printing presses in this town at the time period and, you know, a lot of minutiae. Anyways, Jerald finally concluded that Anderson was right. There is no evidence that the Cowdery pamphlet goes back to Cowdery.
In doing that research. He had looked at that on wording in the Cowdery pamphlet and he noticed that there were phrases in it that were just like phrases in–Cowdery did a series of letters in the Messenger and Advocate back when he was a faithful Mormon, and Jerald says somebody used the Cowdery letters from the Messenger and Advocate to make this pamphlet. They’ve tried to imitate Cowdery’s writing style by taking phrases from these letters. Although they were in a different context, but the phrasing of Cowdery from these letters to make this document. So, he’d already been down this trail before on trying to figure out through analysis of the content of whether it could really be a forgery or something that the author would have really written. And so, when he looks at the Salamander Letter, he says, “These are phrases. It’s too pat. There are phrases here that are lifted from E.D. Howe from this other early book to make something sound like it’s Martin Harris, but it’s too pat in the picking up of phrases.”
We also talk about the term “anti-Mormon.”
GT: a lot of people call you an anti-Mormon. What do you think of that term?
Sandra: I don’t like the term because I think it implies an animosity towards the whole group. It’s like saying you’re anti-black would imply against blacks in general. I don’t see myself as anti-Mormon. I’m not against the Mormon people. I mean that’s my family. I still have Mormon family that are active, so I don’t see myself as anti-Mormon. I’m anti-Mormonism.
Check out our conversation with Sandra Tanner…. Don’t forget to check out part 1 and part 2!