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This is probably the best resource for the historical case against Mormonism. The Tanners have spent their lives exposing the frauds and problems within Mormon history. The wealth of documentation from this book is astounding. One of the things that I like the most about it is in its use of sources. Generally, they tend to use sources from within the Mormon church itself. The records that they use are Mormon records and there is a wealth of primary sources, from the Journal of Discourses to the highly embarassing and racist talks given by some of the Mormon leaders. It is a very critical look at Mormonism, and to those who wish to remain in the LDS church, I would advise that you really should not read it. However, if you are having questions about Mormonism and its history, this is the place to go.
There are many excellent books on Mormonism, but for the sheer amount of information, this or their excellent work The Changing World of Mormonism (a condensed version of this book) should be a standard resource.
While praising this book for its content, readers should be aware that the Tanner's writing style can be less than scintillating and occasionally very annoying, what with all the capitalisations, putting text in bold, and copious underlining. However, their research doesn't lie. After the Mark Hoffman forgeries, their credibility has been strengthened. While Mormon historians were defending the notorious Salamander Letter, the Tanners were alone in their skepticism of the letter's authenticity.
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I've enjoyed this book quite a bit over the years. It's not scholarly in writing or presentation. But it's well-compiled and obviously done from the heart and not for money or fame. I've looked into many many of their citations and haven't found one yet that hasn't checked out. Also, there is a reviewer below that says the Tanners haven't yet responded to criticisms of the book from BYU scholars in the FARMS program. That's simply not true. I have two lengthy books and a number of articles by the Tanners responding in exhausting detail to the FARMS critiques and then responding to FARMS's responses. I wish the Tanners would someday do an exhaustive update with responses to criticisms and published in a more reader-friendly format. As is, the book is better for browsing and then finding an interesting accusation and going off to research it. As for the critics below, I'd be curious how they defend Brigham Young's statements about inhabitants on the sun and the mention of elephants in the Book of Mormon. Finally, as for my qualifications for understanding both the pro and con of the book, I should note that I was born and raised Mormon, went to church every Sunday plus seminary 5 days a week during high school. And despite all that, the Tanners really helped me to see the point of "Shadow or Reality": that the Book of Mormon is a work of fiction.
The LDS church exerts tremendous pressure on its followers not to read this book, and I can understand why, for Jerald and Sandra Tanner have compiled a compelling and detailed refutation of their teachings. The great strengths of "Mormonism--Shadow or Reality?" are its comprehensiveness (explores every significant LDS controversy through 1987 in considerable detail, as well as many lesser-known controversies); scholarliness (the book is incredibly well researched and documented); and evenhandedness (the Tanners are former Mormons, and while their writings are at times forcefully written, there is nary a trace of bitterness or rancor in them, and they go to great pains to be accurate and fair). The Tanners understand their former religion and its history far better (and more accurately) than the average Mormon--in fact, it is hard to imagine anyone on this planet knowing more about the LDS church and its origins than they do. "Shadow or Reality" is not light reading (recommended only for those who are willing to dig deep), but it is clearly written and easy to follow. If you think this is just hype, buy the book and see for yourself.
I am opposed to the teachings of Mormonism and enjoy reading literature on answering cults. In fact, I maintain a ministry on how to answer cults [EadsHome Ministries; [...] I was glad to read this book, but found it to be difficult to read...much like reading a dictionary. In fact, this book is best thought of as a dictionary. It is a book you would pull out to read what the Tanners compiled on a particular subject, but it isn't a book that many people would just sit down to read. I would NOT recommend this book for someone who is new to learning about Mormonism...I would only recommend this book to someone very familiar with Mormonism and who wants a reference book from the Tanners on various subjects dealing with Mormonism
Sandra Tanner's work is massive and is one of the best books on Mormonism I have found. Her work is fully documented in the book with complete photo copies of actual Mormon documents demonstrating their errors. The book has set a standard since its initial publication as THE work on Mormonism.
The book is broken down into several catagories of Mormon doctrines and history. The Tanner's offer both a biblical and historical view of the various Mormon doctrines and practices. However, the greatest aspect of SHADOW OR REALITY is the way that the Tanner's expose Joseph Smith as both a crook and a false prophet. How anyone could have followed Smith is beyond my own understanding? How do Mormons today continue to accept Smith as a prophet and the one sent to restore the Church? Surely Mormons are living in a shadow world.
A great book and a great read for all true disciples of Jesus.