In the BYU TV programming between LDS General Conference sessions today, we had the pleasure of seeing the T.C. Christensen film, Treasure in Heaven, the powerful story of just how much good can be found in critics out to expose the Church. At least that’s what a good Baptist and fellow Christian, John Tanner, was out to do when he went to hear some Mormon missionaries shortly after the founding of the Church. He sought to serve God by applying his good knowledge of the Bible to expose the Mormons preaching in his area. Instead, this prospective anti-Mormon would be touched by the power of the Spirit and he sensed that he needed to look into the Book of Mormon with a sincere desire to know if it came from God. He ended up gaining a spiritual witness of its truthfulness and would also have a miraculous cure to his diseased leg that was threatening his life. From then on, he served God in the Restored Church with all his heart–and with all his substantial material posessions. This wealthy and respected citizen was moved by the Lord to go to Kirtland just in time to make crucial large donations that allowed the Church to keep the land for the Temple. He would give more, even all he had, and do so gladly. There is much we can learn from his life and from his perspective that transcended the temporary material things that can choke our faith and love for God. What a man and what a legacy.
You may wish to read the Ensign‘s story about John Tanner.
Here is an excerpt from Leonard J. Arrington’s article, “The John Tanner Family“:
It was the middle of December in 1834 when John Tanner, a recent convert to the Church in Lake George, New York, “received an impression by dream or vision of the night, that he … must go immediately to the Church” in Kirtland. He disposed of his property—several flourishing farms, a hotel, and orchards—loaded his numerous family and several neighbors into wagons on Christmas morning, and traversed the five hundred mile distance to arrive in Kirtland on a Sunday, January 1835.
He had indeed been needed. A mortgage on the temple site was falling due and, according to some accounts, the impoverished Prophet Joseph and some of the brethren had been praying for assistance.
John Tanner did not hesitate. He loaned the Prophet two thousand dollars and took his note, loaned the temple committee thirteen thousand dollars, signed a note for thirty thousand dollars with the Prophet and others for goods purchased in New York, and made “liberal donations” toward the building of the temple.
There is no evidence that any of these loans were repaid. Later, when he moved with his family to Missouri to build up Zion there, they had a “borrowed team and one old broken down stage horse, and an old turn pike cart, a cag [keg] of powder, and $7.50 in cash,” according to his son, Nathan. (George S. Tanner, John Tanner and His Family, Salt Lake City: John Tanner Family Association, 1974, pp. 74–77. Subsequent references, unless otherwise noted, will be from this volume.)
It was the beginning of generations of Tanner service to the Church, service not only to the Church as a whole but also at ward and stake levels wherever they lived.