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Jerald Tanner’s Forensic Background (Part 4)

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!

Sandra & Jerald Tanner in 1987
Sandra & Jerald Tanner in 1987

 

178: The Cowdery Forgery (Tanner)

177: How Jerald Tanner Identified Fake Salamander Letter (Tanner)

176: When Mark Hofmann met Sandra Tanner (Tanner)

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How Jerald Tanner Identified Fake Salamander Letter (Part 2)

Jerald Tanner was the first person to publicly question Mark Hofmann’s fake Salamander Letter.  His wife Sandra details how Jerald came to that conclusion.

Sandra:  Jerald, realizes this, there’s a story of a document out there that claim to be by Martin Harris about the magic involvement of Joseph in the coming forth of Book of Mormon in a magic setting. So he went back to E.D. Howe’s, “Mormonism Unvailed” that has statements by the neighbors that all talk about the Smiths’ involvement in magic. And so he’s becoming more familiar with getting this fresh in his mind what these affidavits all said. And there had been a BYU Studies article a year or two before that had talked about Joseph Knight, who was an early Mormon at the Smith home at the time that coming out of the Book of Mormon. And he had read that article so he was kind of getting prepped up on his research ahead of time. So when he get that copy of the letter, he’d be able to jump right into an evaluation of it. So he gets the letter–the type copy, not the original and he’s reading through this and the more he looks at it, he says to me, “There’s something wrong. This has got phrases in it that have to come from E.D. Howe and from the Joseph Knight letters. And so someone’s making this up.”

Now I don’t think he was sure that it was Mark, but someone was making up documents. So this is a forgery. And I’m like, “Jerald, everyone accepts Mark’s documents. I mean Dean Jessee at the Church Historians Office is not going to want to accept Mark’s documents that are critical of Joseph Smith that tie him to magic unless they feel they have to. I mean, why would they? Why wouldn’t they be asking these questions?”

Jerald says, “I don’t care. I’m telling you there’s something wrong. The similarities of wording is too much there.”

She also tells her reaction!

Sandra:  I’m telling Jerald we could get sued. You can’t just run around saying something’s forgery. Someone’s going to sue us. Mark will sue us for defamation or something, and Jerald says, “He’s not going to sue us.”

I said, “How can you be sure?”

And he says, “Because it’s a forgery. He has no background to prove this document.”

And I said, “Well please don’t lose my house.”

Check out our conversation…. and don’t forget part 1 describing how Sandra met Mark Hofmann.

Jerald Tanner was the first to determine the Salamander Letter was fake.
Jerald Tanner was the first to identify the fake Salamander Letter.