The following e-mail was sent to Dr. Daniel C. Peterson at FARMS in response to his review of Loftes Tryk in FARMS Review of Books on The Book of Mormon, Vol. 3. (See our link to Dr. Peterson's article on the Loftes Tryk page.) It contains much valuable background information on Loftes Tryk. (See the disclaimer at the end of this article.)
From: SCOTT SPENDLOVE
I thoroughly enjoyed your review of Loftes' book -- a signed copy of which my father was given upon its publication in 1988. Unfortunately you never reveal (probably because you don't know) the source of Brother Tryk's delusions. Indulge me and I will tell you what I know of Brother Tryk (which is pronounced "trick" as in magic trick and not "trike" as in the abbreviation for tricycle):
When I was 8 years old (1971) my family and I moved to Santa Paula, California -- a small citrus-centered community in the Santa Clara river valley north of Los Angeles, south of Santa Barbara and just east of the beaches at Ventura. Being faithful Latter-day Saints (even to this day), we became active members of the Santa Paula ward (a newly graduated branch, really) and began lifelong friendships with its members. Among the families in the ward that we became acquainted with was the Loftes Tryk family. Loftes, during some time in that ward, was the Elder's quorum president -- a returned missionary who had married in the temple and who was faithful to his calling. By vocation, Brother Tryk was the wood shop teacher at the local junior high (Isabell) which explained his quirky lumber-jack look on Sundays. Neatly pressed brown corduroy pants, plaid shirt, work boots (we called them "waffle-stompers") and a full beard. (My teenage desires to grow a beard were thwarted by my father who explained that the Church required its faithful priesthood holders to be clean shaven and that the only reason Loftes wore a beard was because of a skin condition that was irritated by shaving.) They usually sat in the third or fourth row just behind the deacons on the left side of the chapel -- unquestionably the most well behaved family in the congregation. Loftes and his wife (whose name escapes me now -- Cheryl or Sherry, maybe) sat erect and at full attention with their children sitting likewise quietly listening during the full hour of sacrament meeting unlike any other family in the congregation. Often my parents would wonder why their kids (7 ultimately) couldn't be more like the Tryk kids.
My dad loved to tinker with wood-working projects and soon developed a close friendship with Loftes who would invite my father down to the junior high wood shop to work on various projects. My dad even spent one summer with the help of Loftes constructing a wooden organ stool that used an old Volkswagen screw-jack to create a swivel seat that could be raised and lowered by spinning the seat. My dad entered the stool in the county fair that fall and won a first-prize ribbon. During my second year of junior high in 1976 I enrolled in Mr. Tryks' (mister at school, brother at church) woodshop class where I learned, among other things to "plan your work then work your plan" and that snagging your thumb on the lathe REALLY did hurt! Mr. Tryk was a good shop teacher who required discipline and attention to details.
Just after I entered high school, the Tryk's had a baby that was born with some severe complications. I'm remembering back now to what I understood then, but I believe the child was born with part of his intestines growing outside of his body. The ward rallied around the Tryk family, fasted and prayed for the child, and offered support through this difficult period for the family. Eventually, through surgeries, etc. the condition was corrected and the boy has since grown into adulthood. Shortly after that, for reasons which no one understood at the time, the Tryk's began to go inactive.
By the time I left on my mission in 1982, the Tryk's were all but completely inactive although my dad kept in touch with the family through his responsibilities in the bishopric, as a hometeacher, and as a friend. Then, sometime in 1983 I got a letter from home that really surprised me. [SHIELDS Note: Loftes committed immoral acts which got him thrown in prison.] His wife divorced and prosecuted him and he was sentenced to 4 years in the state prison. When I returned from Italy in 1984, Loftes was in prison, his wife had turned against the Church, and his kids, for the most part, were in all kinds of trouble themselves. Loftes blamed the Church's strict code of chastity for an unfulfilling marital relationship which led to his actions and his wife apparently agreed -- citing the same reasons for her inactivity in the Church. I passed the whole thing off as a tragic turn of events and focused on my studies at BYU.
In 1987 I graduated from BYU and took a job in Los Angeles. My wife and I moved to Newhall, California -- just north of the San Fernando valley -- where we were actively involved in the Newhall Second Ward. Sometime in 1988, I was called as a stake missionary and became actively involved with our ward's missionary program. I had all but forgotten about Loftes. Then, one Sunday late in 1988, I was seated on the stand during a ward conference when into the back of the chapel walked a man who reminded me of Loftes Tryk. Same pants, same shirt, same shoes but no beard (Loftes had to wear a beard, remember?) and, besides, Loftes was still in prison (I reasoned). Figuring it was just a weird similarity -- even if he were out of prison, why would Loftes be in Newhall some 45 miles from Santa Paula -- I paid no attention to the guy in the back of the room. After sacrament meeting, we had our ward mission correlation meeting. We were reviewing the Elders' contacts when they got excited about a "golden" contact who had "wandered" into the chapel that day. He had been given a copy of the Book of Mormon by a friend, had read it, and was interested in learning more about the Church. "Pure gold!", the Elders thought! When I asked the contact's name, they hesitated . . . it was some sort of weird name like Trike or Trick..."LOFTES TRYK!?!?!", I shouted. "Yeah, did you meet him?" Puzzled, I told the missionaries what I knew about Brother Tryk and cautioned them that he was probably up to no good. If he were sincerely interested in coming back into the Church, he was going about it in a deceitful way. I told the Elders I would call my dad and see what he knew and get back to them.
I called my dad that afternoon and he related to me that Loftes, WHILE IN PRISON, had written an anti-Mormon book called "The Best Kept Secrets in the Book of Mormon" and that he was out of prison now pushing his book. Loftes had even mailed my dad a signed copy of his book that I could have if I wanted it. (I later got that copy from my dad, read it, had a good laugh and, at my father's request, set it out with the rest of the trash one Wednesday morning!) I then called the missionaries who were very surprised and just a little upset that their golden contact was turning out to be fool's gold. They had an appointment set-up with him for the next Thursday which I told them to keep. I would go with them and, together, we would see what he was up to. In the meantime, I called the stake mission president and the stake president and told them what I knew and they, in turn, put the other wards in the stake on the alert for this now wolf in sheeps' clothing.
Thursday night came and one of the Elders and I (on splits) went for the appointment we had with Loftes. He had rented a small, one-bedroom apartment in the low-rent district of Newhall. We knocked on the door and, when he answered, he smiled and shook the Elder's hand, warmly greeting him in. Then, as he greeted me, his smile turned to a distressed almost guilty look as he recognized me. "What are you doing here!?" he nervously asked. "That's what I'm here to find out about YOU," I replied. He invited us in and we sat down at a small dinette set he had set-up in the living/kitchen area of the small apartment. Aside from the bed in the back room and that table and chairs, the apartment was empty...except for the MOUNTAINS of books he had stacked from floor to ceiling in almost every free space remaining in the living room. And from what I could tell, almost all of them were Church publications. The complete history of the church, every seminary and institute study guide you could imagine, discourses on the discourses, companion study guides, every bit of church literature that you could want to read was stacked in that tiny one-bedroom apartment. Before the missionary could say anything else, I cut to the chase and said, "Okay, Loftes, what are you doing here?" In angry, defensive tones, Loftes cried foul as I thwarted his sneaky plan to get into the good graces of an excellent ward and then sit in the back of every meeting sowing seeds of doubt and discontent among the members he came in contact with. He then laid into the missionary for being deceived by the devil and his church. Before he could get too far, I decided to end our visit. As I stood up and motioned for the Elder to leave, I called Loftes to repentance and invited him to come back into the Church -- but through the front door. He condemned me and the Elder to hell and as we walked from the apartment he was ranting and raving, "You can't do this to me! It's not fair! How dare you!?!"
Within a few days of our visit, Loftes had moved from the area and, to this day, I've never heard of or from him again. His wife and some of his kids still live in Santa Paula. My youngest sister even went to her prom with the boy who was born with the complications. He's a good kid whose grown up to be a fine young man despite his father's foibles.
Anyway, that's the story of Loftes Tryk. As with most anti's, someone who fell from grace who can't face his own weaknesses and chooses, instead, to find fault with the Church and its teachings. And, is it any wonder, really, that his book is so weird when you consider that he wrote it from prison and the influences there? In the final analysis, we get a good laugh from his book but we can't laugh for long when we understand the circumstances of its creation and the lives destroyed by the author -- including his own.
Please feel free to quote me with the disclaimer that these are the facts as I remember them and as they were told to me -- hearsay as to the circumstances relating to Loftes' run-in with the law but first-person fact in every other way.