Tanner, Mormon challenger and founder of Utah Lighthouse Ministry, dies

Salt Lake Tribune/October 6, 2006
By Jeremiah Stettler

Jerald D. Tanner never jay-walked, avoided driving faster than the speed limit and always returned to the grocery store if the cashier gave him too much change, family members say.

The Salt Lake City man, who family and friends regard as a person of unwavering integrity, died this week of complications related to Alzheimer's disease. He was 68.

Long considered a thorn to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in his search for truth, Tanner gained notoriety among Mormons for challenging their faith.

He authored more than 40 books, including Mormonism - Shadow or Reality, and published reams of research papers and pamphlets assailing the church's doctrine and history. He believed that an accurate and complete history would prove the faith false.

"He felt driven by his quest for truth, to follow that path no matter how hurtful, how sad or how challenging it was," said his wife, Sandra.

The couple founded the nonprofit organization Utah Lighthouse Ministry in 1983 to provide humanitarian aid and publish materials on the LDS church. It continues to operate today at 1358 S. West Temple in Salt Lake City.

LDS Church spokesman Dale Bills declined comment on Tanner's death or the impact his ministry has had on the church.

While Tanner's religious advocacy captured the greatest publicity, family members say this soft-spoken man also was prone to practical jokes. His favorite gag involved a talking toy parrot. He would hide the squawker around the house and in his bookstore to startle unsuspecting passers-by. He also stashed a stuffed gorilla in his wife's bed, in the refrigerator and in the freezer for a chuckle.

Tanner also devoted countless hours to the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake, where he volunteered up to six days a week and conducted prayer meetings.

Yet Tanner's legacy is a lifetime of honesty, said his son Dennis Tanner. The man once urged his daughter to approach a neighbor who unknowingly was paying her electrical bill on a light fixture. "He was a stickler on those kinds of things," the Taylorsville man said.

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