The following is a transcript of Hank Hanegraaff’s interview with Sandra Tanner, co-founder of Utah Lighthouse Ministry aired on 10/10/2011. Sandra is the great-great-granddaughter of Brigham Young and a leading expert on the Mormon religion.
HANK HANEGRAAFF: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) was birthed in 1820 by an alleged vision in which two celestial personages appeared to Joseph Smith, claiming all existing churches were wrong, all their creeds were an abomination, and all their professors were corrupt. According to these personages, Smith had been chosen to restore (not reform, but restore) a church that had disappeared from the face of the earth. The Mormon doctrines that have evolved from that vision compromise, confuse, or contradict the nature of God, the authority of Scripture, and the way of salvation. Talking about that with me on this broadcast: Sandra Tanner, she founded, along with her husband Jerald, Utah Lighthouse Ministry. It’s a Christian nonprofit organization, an important nonprofit organization reaching Mormons with the truth and love that only the Jesus Christ of Christianity can bring to the human heart—not the Christ of Mormonism. These are two different Jesuses. This broadcast prompted in part by an article I read today in the Charlotte Observer, in which a pastor, not just a pastor but lead pastor, at First Baptist Church in Dallas called Mormonism a cult and said Mitt Romney was not a Christian and latter was denounced by Bill Bennett for bigotry against Mormons, and then Mitt Romney himself talked about this “poisonous language which doesn’t advance our cause” and that we need to remember that “decency and civility are values,” values that should be adhered to. I want to contextualize this, Sandra, in that it is true that we are called to communicate the gospel with gentleness and with respect. The question now becomes: Is it right to call Mormonism a cult from a theological perspective?
SANDRA TANNER: Well, certainly, it represents a great heresy. If we’re going to say we’re Christian, we’ve got to adhere to some sort of standard; otherwise Buddhists could say they’re Christians. If the test of Christianity is morality and good living and being a nice neighbor, I’m sure people in all kinds of religions would qualify under that kind of a definition. But Christianity has always embodied a certain set of doctrines, and one of those doctrines is the absoluteness of the one eternal God, and that Jesus has eternally been God. Mormonism rejects both those concepts. Christianity has traditionally said God has spoken through the Bible, and that the New Testament is the standard for Christian beliefs. Mormonism rejects that and takes additional books of scripture that they believe supersede the Bible. The Bible is only secondary in their chain of authority; their other scriptures are paramount. So they get to redefine all the terms. But we also have to keep in mind that Joseph Smith himself was claiming that Christianity was in a total state of apostasy when he started Mormonism in 1830, and that what he established was the “only true church.” So when people become excited because we want to say Mormonism doesn’t fit under the Christian umbrella, you have to understand that Joseph Smith didn’t claim to fit under the Christian umbrella. He said he was doing something totally different than the Christian churches.
HANK: I want you to address an issue that comes up from time to time. That is: a lot of people feel that it is dangerous for me right now to be talking about Mormonism because it could hurt Mitt Romney’s chances to be President of the United States, and therefore, we should hold back, because they are suggesting that right now that is the only solution for our country. He’s likely to be the GOP [Grand Old Party/Republican] candidate running against Barack Obama. Therefore, we should probably temper our criticism of Mormonism. How would you respond to that?
SANDRA: Well, what happens in the political arena is I believe in God’s hand. I don’t think that discussing Mitt’s religion is a matter of attacking him on a political agenda. It’s simply stated: Mormonism does not fall under the umbrella of standard Christianity. And then the Mormons and the media want to make this some sort of Mormon bashing. Is it Mormon bashing—I mean is it bashing for the Mormon to say they aren’t part of standard Christianity? When they say there’re the “only true church,” that’s attacking my belief. So it’s sort of a funny game they get into here on what’s acceptable. We aren’t out putting out slanderous statements about Mitt Romney; we’re simply talking about what his Church advocates. This is their theological position. I think anyone, in evaluating the candidate or thinking about Mormonism, needs to look at the core doctrines of Mormonism. Regardless of how they vote, they need to be informed on what Mitt Romney stands for, just like you would want to consider if the candidate was Jehovah’s Witness. It would have certain implications about medicine and all sorts of issues with them. If a person were opposed to going to war—was a pacifist or something—that would have an impact on how you viewed them for running the country. If a person was a Muslim, it would make a difference on how you view them in terms of international affairs in the military. Everyone’s belief systems do rely to some degree on how they would perform in the office of President. This is just one aspect of Romney—it’s one—but it’s an aspect of everyone that runs for office, we want to know what their core values are, what they really believe in, what they hold sacred and special in their own thoughts, how would this affect how they would run the country. I think those are fair questions.
HANK: Just in fairness, let me add that I have over the years been very critical about the statements made by Barack Obama with respect to the Bible. When he says that the Bible teaches slavery and that eating shellfish is an abomination, or he says that the Bible teaches you to stone your child if he strays from the faith, I’ve been very critical about those statements and pointed out in no uncertain terms that this belies the fact that he has not learned to mine the Bible for all its wealth or certainly not to read the Bible for all it’s worth. In fact, it sounds at times that he got his cues from the once-famous West Wing series.
I want to ask you a question, Sandra, with respect to eschatology. In fairness, this is something that Mitt Romney himself has been rather candid about. He felt compelled to underscore the Mormon notion that during the Millennium that Jesus will reign from “two places—Missouri and Jerusalem,” then added, “Throughout the Bible, Christ appears in Jerusalem, splits the Mount of Olives to stop the war that’s coming in to kill all the Jews. Our church believes that. That’s when the coming of Christ in glory occurs. We also believe that over the thousand years that follows, the Millennium, He will reign from two places, that the law will come forth from one place in Missouri, and the other will be in Jerusalem”  And I might add, and this is something I think in terms of going back to the history of Mormonism, millennial madness so gripped Joseph Smith that he laid a cornerstone in Jackson County, Missouri, at the exact location he supposed the millennial temple would be constructed. And not only did Joseph Smith believe that Christ would setup the millennial reign in Independence, Missouri, but he supposed Western Missouri, not Southern Mesopotamia, to be the location of the Garden of Eden, and therefore, believed that the first man Adam would return to the state of Missouri to prepare the way for the thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ upon the earth. Of course, in Christian theology the coming of Christ forever rendered the notion of an earthly temple, whether in Jerusalem or in Missouri, obsolete. But I find interesting, Sandra, that Mormon has—I mean Mitt Romney—has been pretty forthcoming with respect to his Mormon eschatological beliefs.
SANDRA: Yes, but when he says that most people don’t understand that when he speaks of Christ reigning out of Missouri, that is through the Mormon Church, that the Mormon Church will be set up as the kingdom of God when Christ returns. So, yes, he admits to the Missouri part, but people don’t understand the implications of that statement. This will mean Mormonism will be God’s church on earth and be the ecclesiastical authority ruling the world at that time.
HANK: Beyond that, how significant do you think, if at all, the prophecy by Joseph Smith was that one day the U.S. Constitution would be hanging by a thread only to be saved by the elders of the LDS Church. Does that comport with what you just said?
SANDRA: Yes, now there are Mormons, who will always point out to me that is not a doctrine set in their scriptures; however, it is commonly understood and known within the Mormon community of this prophecy, and I have since this whole thing with Romney got going, I had one guy write and tell me, Well, we see it coming true, the Constitution’s hanging by a thread, and we now have a Mormon to step in and save the day. So Mormons are certainly thinking that this is about to be fulfilled through a Mormon president.
HANK: Talking to Sandra Tanner, she is the founder, along with her husband Jerald, of Utah Lighthouse Ministry. It’s a Christian nonprofit organization providing humanitarian outreach to the community and printing critical resource and making that resource, research, and documentation on Mormonism available. Again, that ministry, an important ministry, Utah Lighthouse Ministry and Sandra Tanner, my guest today, as we talk about Mormonism. When we get back from the break, I want to broach a very significant subject that has been previously dealt with on the Bible Answer Man broadcast. Some of you will remember last week there were some very strong statements made by Mormons on this broadcast about my contention that they teach Jesus Christ was conceived by sexual intercourse between God and the Virgin Mary. So I want to talk to Sandra Tanner about preexistence as a concept with respect to Mormonism, and then talk about how in Mormon theology Jesus Christ is conceived and how that differs dramatically from Christian orthodoxy. We’ll be right talking more with Sandra Tanner in just a few moments.
1. Mitt Romney, interview on WHO radio, Covington, Kentucky, n.d., video online at http://www.youtube.come/watch?v=i0rcAByKUFM, accessed December 21, 2007.