SHIELDS header banner /w logo

Critics Corner


An Incident at the

On June 19, 1997 an interesting incident occurred at the Utah Lighthouse Ministry bookstore in Salt Lake City, Utah.  According to the owners of this ministry, Sandra and Jerald Tanner, only two people had been thrown out of their store prior to this date.  On that date the number doubled.  Dr. Louis C. Midgley and a friend, who questioned Mrs. Tanner on some issues, were tossed from the store by Mr. Tanner, who came from the back room when he had had his fill of their challenges.  We are not presenting the Tanners' side of the incident because to date they have not provided one:

July 2, 1997

Sandra Tanner
Utah Lighthouse Ministry
P.O. Box 1884
Salt Lake City, Utah 84111

Dear Sandra:

I must admit that I was astonished when, on June 19th, your husband showed up and tossed me (and my friend) from your bookstore.  If I said or did something that offended you, of course I apologize.  But I am at a loss to figure out what I might have said to you that warranted our being tossed out of your bookstore--I thought that we were having a thoroughly civil conversation.  As in each of my previous conversations with you, both on the phone and in your shop, I thought that we had been able to communicate and even disagree without being disagreeable.  I do not recall either feeling or expressing hostility towards you in any of our conversations. In the past the issue that seemed to agitate you the most was my probing concerning the likelihood that George D. Smith's has financially assisted Utah Lighthouse Ministry.  But even that portion of our previous conversations was entirely civil.

As you will recall, on the 19th we began by mentioning to you that you have a potential problem with your website.  Why? Ordering with a credit care is unsecured.  Pointing out that problem would hardly seem to constitute grounds for being tossed out.  In addition, I was curious because it seems that you have determined to suppress the How Wide the Divide? even though it was published by a leading evangelical press.  In your justification you ended up, as might be expected, attacking both Craig Blomberg and Stephen Robinson.  I was astonished by the way you rationalized your opinions on Blomberg and Robinson and hence justified your decision to both suppress their book.

Once again I addressed your silence on D. Michael Quinn's homosexual agenda; and I again stressed its obvious impact on the way he has recently chosen to write about the Mormon past.  Quinn is, after all, the same fellow who you thought was unprincipled and incompetent when he, as "Dr. Clandestine," wrote something critical of your work.  But you now privilege and defend him.  As I explained on this and two other occasions, it seems quite obvious that Quinn's homosexual agenda colors or controls his recent essays.

It turns out that you love Quinn's essays when he writes under his own name, but detest him when he writes as "Dr. Clandestine."  When he attacks the Brethren or gossips about something you think is embarrassing to the Church of Jesus Christ, you become his apologist and promote and borrow from what he has written.  Part of your defense of Quinn was that he provides hordes of citations.  I was therefore delighted to discover that neither you nor your husband have checked any of the documentation in his essays.  And it pleased me to demonstrate to you how easy it is to uncover flaws in his endnotes.

I was stunned when you claimed that neither you nor your husband have bothered to have a look at Quinn's Same-Sex Dynamics Among Nineteenth Century Americans:  A Mormon Example (University of Illinois Press, 1996).  You seem intent on borrowing from and/or promoting Quinn's Mormon Hierarchy (and items like his ridiculous talk entitled "On Being a Mormon Historian"), while ignoring his recent sex book.  In the April 1997 Salt Lake City Messenger, your husband offers an apology for Quinn.  And in so doing he has knowingly suppressed (1) the facts about Quinn's disgusting sex survey, (2) his public announcement in Out Magazine of his own homosexual passion, and (3) the details of the controversy over the publication of Same-Sex Dynamics.  Any of these, if made known to your readers, would undercut Quinn's credibility and prove embarrassing to your efforts to use his work as a stick to beat the Church.  Instead of telling the truth about these matters, your husband has argued that Quinn merely made a harmless little mistake when he claimed that Joseph Smith was favorable to homosexual behavior between men.  It does you no credit to act as an apologists for Quinn merely because his recent essays turn out to be sources of gossip that you want to use to attack the Church of Jesus Christ.  What you are apparently unable or unwilling to concede is that some of those same essays have done much to discredit Quinn as an historian.

I was astonished to discover that neither you nor your husband have moved beyond Quinn's 1995 essay in Dialogue.  But your husband has ignored the bulk of even that essay, where Quinn attempted, among other things, to demonstrate that Evan Stephens was a homosexual and that those with whom he associated were involved in so-called "same-sex" relationships with him, as well as the preposterous notion that Joseph Smith favored what amounts to homosexual behavior between males. Why not at least inform your readers of the full contents of Quinn's essay in Dialogue, even if you continue to suppress his Same-Sex Dynamics, which richly illustrates his homosexual apologia?  Why suppress the details concerning the controversy generated by its publication?  Why suppress relevant information and blur the context in which claims such as those currently being made by Quinn are presented?

As I indicated to your husband, as he was ordering us from your bookstore, it will eventually turn out to be an embarrassment for you and your anti-Mormon cause to continue to use Quinn as a stick to beat the Church.  And to continue to apologize for Quinn just seems to demonstrate once again that anti-Mormons will use just about anything or anyone to attack the gospel of Jesus Christ, even or especially when they know exactly how deficient their sources really are.  You did yourself at least some credit by distancing yourselves from Ed Decker's unseemly sequel to his Godmakers.  Why not now distance yourself from the agenda and essays being fashioned by an unfortunately deeply troubled Michael Quinn?  When I made this point in our recent discussion, I did not see what I was saying as constituting but friendly advice.  I certainly do not see how my having offered such advice, as unwelcome as it may have been, provides a justification for a sudden and impolite expulsion from your bookstore.

Grace and peace,

Louis Midgley