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on August 24, 2004
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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on July 13, 2000
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.
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on March 5, 2007
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.
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on September 26, 2004
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
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VINE VOICEon August 8, 2006
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.
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on June 20, 2011
This is a huge resource of devastating and critical historical facts about Mormonism. The authors have a clear and angry agenda: they want to convert you from Mormonism to their own brand of firebrand Christianity, and their anger is everywhere in the book. So you have to ignore all their stuff about how the Bible proves this or that. But what's really good about the book is the discussion of history, and the photocopies of original documents showing how things have been distorted, changed and mistranslated by Joseph Smith and the Church for a long time. I left the LDS church due to this book and its most important claims remain unanswered to this day in my view. But keep in mind I am the intellectual, reasoning, fact-based type of guy. The sheer volume of examples in this book, including original documents and sources, was very convincing.
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on March 24, 2008
This book is so thorough and honest that it's required reading for anyone investigating the LDS church or confronted by those nice looking young men and women selling their religion door to door. One word of advice, also get An Index to Mormonism Shadow or Reality if you plan on using this as a research tool.
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on September 7, 2012
This is a semi-autobiographical documentation of the history of the Mormon church with attention given to research and extreme detailed comparisons of things others don't publish. If they do, they probably found it in this book to begin with (as most people would not go to New York and search in the basement of court houses).

Best history from an insider of Mormonism's founder and subsequent presidents.
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Jerald (1938-2006) and Sandra (born 1941) Tanner are/were perhaps the most noteworthy (certainly the most meticulous and "balanced") "anti-Mormon" critics of the LDS Church; both were formerly Mormons themselves. This is their major work, and includes chapters such as "Changes in the Revelations," "Joseph Smith and Money-Digging," "Archaeology and the Book of Mormon," "The First Vision," "The Adam-God Doctrine," "False Prophecy," "Plural Marriage," "The Negro in Mormon Theology," "Fall of the Book of Abraham," "Blood Atonement," "The Danites," "Changes in the Temple Ceremony," "The Mountain Meadows Massacre," and many others.

The articles on Tanners and this book in Wikipedia have some links to LDS articles criticizing this book; there is also a brief booklet: Jerald & Sandra Tanner's Distorted View of Mormonism: A Response to "Mormonism-Shadow or Reality?"

One certainly can't adequately summarize the contents of a nearly 600-page book in an Amazon review, but here are some choice "quotes" from the 576-page 1982 edition:

"President Joseph Fielding Smith admits that the 'seer stone' was sometimes called the Urim and Thummim..." (Pg. 43)
"We feel, however, that we have demonstrated that these witnesses were easily influenced by men and therefore were NOT competent witnesses... these witnesses were NOT men of 'spotless reputation,' but rather men whose word could not always be relied on. Some of them even gave false revelations in the name of the Lord." (Pg. 59)
(Concerning the 3 Nephi 9:18 use of Greek words "alpha" and "omega") "The Greek language was used throughout the Roman Empire at the time of Christ; therefore, the New Testament was written in Greek and the words 'Alpha' and 'Omega' were well understood. The Nephites, however, were supposed to have left Jerusalem 600 years before the time of Christ, and therefore they would not have been familiar with these words." (Pg. 81)
"Although the Mormon Church claims to be led by revelation, Joseph F. Smith, the sixth President of the Mormon Church, testified as follows in the Reed Smoot investigation... 'I have never pretended to nor do I profess to have received revelations.'" (Pg. 184)
"(Hugh) Nibley claims the true source of the Book of Abraham is still lost. According to his new theory, Joseph Smith's scribes mistakenly copied the characters from the 'Sensen' papyrus into the three handwritten manuscripts of the Book of Abraham... Professor Nibley's suggestion that Joseph Smith's scribes added the wrong characters in the translation manuscripts is certainly preposterous. That Joseph Smith would allow his scribes to copy the characters from the wrong papyrus into three different manuscripts of the Book of Abraham is really beyond belief." (Pg. 320)
"Actually, this book (They Lie In Wait To Deceive: The Amazing Story How "Dr." or "Prof." Dee Jay Nelson, Jerald and Sandra Tanner, and Other Anti-Mormons Work to Obstruct and Distort the Truth) is nothing but a smoke screen to divert attention from the Book of Abraham problem to Dee Jay Nelson. In this work Mr. and Mrs. Brown make a devastating attack on Nelson... the Browns did an excellent job of exposing some false claims made by Dee Jay Nelson." (Pg. 369)
"The Mormon writer E. Cecil McGavin admitted that Joseph Smith gave the Masonic signal of distress (shortly before he was murdered):... 'O Lord My God!' This was NOT the beginning of a prayer, because Joseph Smith did not pray in that manner. This brave, young man who knew that death was near, started to repeat the distress signal of the Masons, expecting thereby to gain the protection its members are pledged to give a brother in distress." (Pg. 485)
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on November 5, 2007
An amazing compilation of the many doctrines of the Mormon faith. It is more like a textbook, heavy reading, but great if you really want to get into knowing the details about this religion. Obviously, much research was used to write this book.
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