CC - Mark Hofmann pt 3
On this episode, we finally reach the conclusion of our 3-part deconstruction of Mark Hofmann. From young missionary to old man in prison, this has been one wild ride with Mark from his birth in 1954, through his days forging documents throughout his 20’s and finally ending at his plea bargain at the age of 32. This episode even features a surprise interview from an unexpected guest with a funny voice.
Outro music by Jason Comeau http://aloststateofmind.com/
Show Artwork http://weirdmormonshit.com/
Voicemail Line (864)Nake-dMo (625-3366)
Deseret News Canyon Home article
George Throckmorton and William Flyn
Roderick McNeil ink dating study
Deseret News Cowdery History article
UTLM State of New York v. Joseph Smith
Mark Hofmann timeline
Welcome to this clean cut episode of the Naked Mormonism Podcast, the serial Mormon history podcast. Today is August 25, 2016, my name is Bryce Blankenagel and thank you for joining me.
What you’re about to hear is part 3 of an examination of Mark Hofmann, one of the greatest forgers known to history. If you want to know about everything up to this point, I may recommend going back and listening to part 1 and 2. If you don’t mind picking up in the middle of a story, or you’re all caught up, this is the episode for you.
Why is it important to learn about Mark Hofmann? I’ve been asking myself this for a few weeks now, and I’m not sure I have a definite answer. Yes, I find him to be fascinating, and I need no further excuse to research something than simple fascination, but there’s more to Hofmann than I could understand if I were to study him for decades. I suppose any story like this, that sits in living color in front of us, is just as fascinating, but there are certain elements to the Hofmann story that keep my mind racing at night while I stare at the blank ceiling above.
Why?... Why is a powerful word, isn’t it? I just went on vacation, Why, because I needed to leave the city for a weekend. I just went for a bike ride, Why, to get some exercise and enjoy the outdoors. I just killed two people and almost myself with sophisticated pipe bombs, Why……. Why why why…
On the evening of October 16th, 1985, Hofmann was in the ICU of LDS general hospital, recovering from his own bomb that had flayed the roof off his car and severely damaged his leg and hands, and left open gashes on his forehead and body. After questioning Hofmann, the police found probable cause to search his home where they found his document forge and a green letterman jacket that a witness had seen Hofmann wearing before dropping off the bomb that had killed Steven Christensen.
The police had reason to believe that Hofmann was a lone bomber without any accomplices, and I’ll tell you right now that there is no evidence to suggest otherwise and I don’t align with conspiracy theories that may claim otherwise.
The idea that Hofmann may have been forging documents to sell or trade was not necessarily a new concept at the end of 1985. Christensen, Metcalfe, Ashworth, the Tanners, plenty of people close to Hofmann, or even just in Mormon historical circles, were beginning to question the legitimacy of some of Hofmann’s miraculous finds. The problem was, as it had always been, nobody knew the extent to which Hofmann had influenced the world of Mormon history.
As soon as public discourse began to question if Hofmann was a forger or not, it put a hold on any deals that involved Mormon documents. Overnight, any deals that Hofmann was in the middle of evaporated. He was still on the hook for nearly $3 mn of today’s dollars to pay out to multiple entities, but after the bombs went off, he was out of a job, and the primary suspect of two murders; as a result, people were quickly turning hostile against him.
The Bureau of ATF were involved with the local Police Department to find all the links to Hofmann and the bombs possible. Because it involved millions of dollars and forgeries, the FBI also stepped in, bringing never before seen attention to nice little Salt Lake City. The news cycle exploded with articles like we read in the last episode. People everywhere were hearing the story of bombs going off in Salt Lake City, some were saying it was organized crime from investors that had lost $5 mn in CFS investments. Others heard that the bombs were somehow related to Mormon history, but what about Mormon history would cause somebody to kill two people with bombs? Only the small number of people on the inside of this story were aware of what was going on with the documents Hofmann was selling, and out of those people, a very small number actually thought he was the forger and bomb maker. It’s hard to convey just how confusing and perplexing the situation was when this story broke into the main stream, and everybody was talking about it, which made the confusion even worse.
The hushed whispers that were spoken among a few document collectors that Hofmann might not be all that trustworthy, rose to audible murmurings running rampant throughout the Mormon historical community. Articles coming from the Deseret news during this time are amazing. Often times it doesn’t seem like we put enough stock into local reporting, historically its shown to be more reliable because it captures what it was like to be there when the story happened. During the next few days of the Deseret News, a murder mystery unfolds in living color. It’s great to watch a movie unfold a mystery plot over an hour and a half, but this was real life with real newspaper articles. Real people had died and real people might still be in danger.
Here are some headlines and summaries of the next few days in the Church-owned Deseret News.
Police Focus on evidence, not theories:
“Theories of conspiracies, elaborate forgeries and hundred-thousand dollar payoffs may make interesting reading, but police say they are more interested in solving two murders.
Investigators are downplaying media reports that documents found in Hofmann’s car and home may have been forgeries. In fact, most investigators refused to even comment on reports forged documents may be the motive behind the Tuesday killings of Steven Christensen, 31, a prominent collector of Mormon historical documents, and Kathy Webb Sheets, 50, wife of Christensen’s business associate.”
Killings entail classic motives
Money, revenge, secrets may be part of S.L. ‘murder mystery’
This one contemplates some possible motives.
“A murder mystery, possibly with all the classic motives – forgery, large sums of money, revenge and secret documents – is unraveling now in the bomb killings of two Salt Lakers earlier this week and the severe injury of another.
No fiction writer could come up with stranger scenarios or plots.
The ultimate motive for the killings will not surface until a prosecutor faces a jury and lays out a plausible scenario. Here are some of the possibilities:
--Murder to cover up forgeries or possible forgeries. Material in Hofmann’s car lead police to believe that he had been practicing forging documents.
--Murder to avenge a broken business deal or eliminate a middle-man who would want a cut of the action.
--Murder to eliminate Christensen, then bomb plantings (or attempted plantings) to divert attention from any connection to Mormon documents and toward CFS Financial Corp., the troubled investment firm in which Sheets and Christensen were officers.”
It continues on:
“To be honest,” said Brent Metcalfe, whom Christensen hired to research the Harris letter, “the only thing the White Salamander letter has to do with the case is that it introduced Mark to Steve.”
Metcalfe, whom Christensen paid to research the Harris letter, knew Christensen, Hofmann and Sheets well. Devastated by Christensen’s death, he said, he vacillated between the two motives – CFS business dealings or historical document trafficking – but worried about himself and his friends’ safety because of their connections to Christensen and Sheets.
Wednesday he stopped by Signature Books to see friends, and someone told him a car had been bombed at the LDS Church Office Building. “It didn’t make sense because none of us can park there.”
Metcalfe called a reporter at the SLT, he said, who told him the car was parked near the Deseret Gym and checked the report as to the color and make.
I said, “That’s the same as Mark’s. I’ve got to get over there.”
Metcalfe said he drove there and saw the car, but his friend had been taken away. “I grabbed a policeman and told him who I was. He called a detective who told me my life might be in danger and took me into protective custody. I was just shaking, just falling apart.’”
This is from another article “Hofmann also traded important documents of American history”
It talks about the Oath of a Freeman for 12 paragraphs then quotes an anonymous source in saying: “Another source said in addition to the “Oath of a Freeman,” Hofmann has collected letters from some important early American figures that he planned to sell including documents written by Edgar Allan Poe and Abraham Lincoln.
Hofmann dealt heavily in early American books and documents “The Mormon stuff is probably only 20 percent of his business activities,” the source said.”
Whether we can trust that or not doesn’t seem to matter for our purposes. Point is, rumors were circulating about just how far and wide Hofmann’s forgeries had infected history. People holding documents they had bought from Hofmann or one of his affiliates were suddenly faced with the possibility that they were holding something that was essentially worthless. That being said, the church was still under the impression that the Salamander letter was real. Whether or not Hofmann was dealing in forgeries, the church had invested a lot of time and even more money into verifying the legitimacy of the Salamander letter, and they weren’t so excited to walk back and say it was all on a fake document. What’s more is they had invested apologetics resources into justifying the letter with their own narrative. That’s where the big investment came in that they didn’t want to embrace as a useless investment. They had spoken in general conference about the Salamander letter, they had released dozens of articles in the Deseret News about it. Dean Jessee had written his treatise on the legitimacy of the letter; the church was locked into a sunk-cost relationship with this cancerous Salamander Letter, and it was eating countless church resources and still causing members to leave. The church still wasn’t sure what to do with the Salamander letter.
On the 20th, another person was arrested under suspicion of being Hofmann’s accomplice. A man named Shannon Patrick Flynn was suspected of association with Hofmann in his criminal dealings. Also, the Uzi that He and Hofmann owned was found in Flynn’s possession. They had converted the Uzi to fully automatic which is a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Flynn was arrested while Hofmann was recovering at LDS hospital, and he made the $50,000 bail two days later. When the police searched his home, they found a copy of The Anarchist’s Cookbook, which has many step-by-step recipes to making bombs. Whether Hofmann needed the cookbook to make the pipe bombs or not is unknown, but mere possession of the book along with the Uzi was enough for police to connect the dots, which landed Flynn in jail. He would later be acquitted of any prosecution because links between him and Hofmann were circumstantial business deals at best.
Over the next few weeks, people everywhere volunteered cooperation with the FBI, ATF, and local police officials to piece the Hofmann case together.
| 19 October 1985 | Church announces Harris letter was given to FBI to authenticate. The FBI tests did not indicate forgery. Second search of Hofmann home conducted. | | | | --------------- | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | | | | 21 October 1985 | Elder Hugh Pinnock releases details of his role in obtaining a loan for Hofmann. | | | | 23 October 1985 | In a news conference, Elders Hinckley, Oaks, and Pinnock give details about their contacts with Hofmann. | | | | 25 October 1985 | Elder Pinnock repays Hofmann's loan to First Interstate Bank. | | | | 30 October 1985 | Information from Rendell says papyrus Hofmann tried to peddle was from him, not part of any McLellin collection. | | |
People were coming out of the woodwork everywhere to try and absolve themselves of any guilt in connection with Hofmann and the bombs. When the FBI began investigating the insular society of deep Mormon history, they found names and institutions that kept coming up. Lyn Jacobs, Brent Metcalfe, Brent Ashworth, Gordon B. Hinckley, J Schiller company in New York. The government officials gathered as much evidence as they possibly could from every source they possibly could.
We have the benefit of seeing these things play out in hindsight. We can look back at this, 30 years after it happened, with the eye of an overseer, and understand what was happening. Granted, there is a bit of historical fog as to what it must have felt like to be one of these people with articles circulating about you being connected to Hofmann through business deals, we can’t understand what that must have felt like. But, we know what happened, and we have the benefit of near historical omniscience when it comes to the Hofmann timeline. For the people that were experiencing this in real time though, it was a very different reality for them. They had the fog of unknown future events to cloud their judgement and actions. For all they knew, another bomb could go off any day and kill somebody else that was associated with Mormon history, people were on the edge of their seats for weeks while these events played out.
| 31 October 1985 | Hofmann released from LDS Hospital. Later in the day he is charged with illegal possession of a machine gun. He pleads innocent and posts a $50,000 bail. A Daniel Boone letter [1 April 1775] sold at a Sotheby's auction for $31,900. The letter was a Hofmann creation. Sotheby's later buys letter back. | | | | --------------- | -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | | | | November 1985 | Grand Jury hears from people who dealt with Hofmann. No charges filed. | | |
The same thing the police had charged Shannon Patrick Flynn with, possession of the Uzi, they arrested Hofmann for. The same day, he posts the $50,000 bail, just as Flynn had done a week before. Hofmann was a flight risk and there was a pending investigation of him as the primary suspect in the bombings. The police took his passport and placed him on a travel restriction for fear he would flee the country. They also placed surveillance squads on Hofmann to track his movement, when you’re a prime suspect in the heinous deaths of two people, you lose a lot of freedoms.
Then, something remarkable happened. There are small communities online and probably in some books somewhere that posit conspiracy theories that claim Hofmann as a fall guy for a larger conspiracy. What happened next is one piece of evidence they will often claim as supporting evidence for such conspiracies. I said last episode that I don’t espouse any of these theories, I think the historical record surrounding Hofmann as we widely understand it is probably mostly reliable, but I do take a bit of pause at what happened next.
| | | ---------------- | ----------------------------- | | | | 13 November 1985 | Hofmann takes polygraph test. | | |
You may be saying, well, he took a polygraph test, there’s our silver bullet, you nail him down on the polygraph and admit the results as evidence in court, bam you got your conviction, everybody goes home, bad-guy goes to jail for eternity and we all sleep better at night knowing a lunatic is off the streets.
Unfortunately, things aren’t quite so cut and dried. Polygraphs tests aren’t 100% accurate, in fact many critics claim they’re less accurate than chance and have different levels of effectiveness for different personality types. They can also be more effective when asking details of a crime as opposed to asking straight-forward if the person committed the crime, like they would expect.
For example, if a person is being polygraph tested for petty theft, the examiner will often avoid the question of “Did you steal the money?” until the end of the examination. The more pertinent question is “Was the stolen money in the amount of $100, $500, or $2,000?” which causes more stimulation on the graph when the person knows the specifics of the crime. This is also why polygraph results are only occasionally admitted as evidence in a court. To dive into this deeper, the argument can be made that polygraphs are nothing more than antiquated relics of 1920’s pseudo-science that don’t actually hold any relevance to real detective work. It’s the person conducting the polygraph that determines if a person is lying or not, not necessarily the machine itself. The psychological effects of the polygraph machine combined with a stoic and intimidating person conducting the 90-minute question and answer session is what determines whether or not a person is lying. It’s not so much the machine, but the polygraphist that can tell when a person is lying.
But, it needs to be said, people are capable of fooling polygraphs. The polygraph measures physiological changes during a person’s answer to any given question. When a person lies, their stress level increases, which the polygraph measures by checking their breathing, heart rate, and conductivity of their skin to measure sweat levels. Hofmann was a habitual liar; we know that from the many deals he orchestrated with nothing but his own lies backing them up. Somebody like Hofmann, who lies constantly, is capable of suppressing those tells that most honest people exhibit while lying. That makes sense, right? Somebody who lies all the time is practiced at doing so and can fool the polygraph into thinking they aren’t lying. Famously, the green river killer, Gary Ridgeway; Charles Cullen, a serial killer, and plenty of other high level criminals, fooled multiple polygraph tests that were designed to catch these people lying. The polygraph is ill-equipped to identify hardened liars like these men. Hofmann, just like others before and after him, fooled the polygraph test. He didn’t show signs of lying when asked critical questions about the bombings.
A normal modern polygraph test will issue a degree of certainty in its findings. It will say that the test subject was lying during a given question with a percent degree of confidence. If somebody exhibits signs of lying when asked a question, the polygraph will say that it measured spikes in the readings indicative of lying during this question with an 85% level of confidence. Not only was Hofmann able to confuse the polygraph into less than a 50% level of confidence, but when he was asked the questions of did you kill the people in the bombing of October 15th, and we’re you in the judge building that morning in a green jacket dropping off a package, he was able to fool them into a false degree of negative response. The polygraph said that Hofmann specifically wasn’t lying when he blatantly said he had nothing to do with the bombings. On November 13th, Hofmann took and passed the polygraph, and by November 20th, his attorney had issued statements that he had passed a polygraph, which came into conflict with the case the police were building. Also, the police didn’t find any actual bomb-making equipment in Hofmann’s home. I believe I said that they did last episode, but I was only going off the news articles that were reporting such information, the only bomb-making materials the police found in Hofmann’s possession were some surgical gloves and some metal pipe in the trunk of his blown up car.
This is from the Deseret News Nov. 20th, 1985. It’s a long one, but there is a ton of relevant information in it, so I’m going to read the majority of it. Be sure to follow the link in the show notes to see a photocopy of the paper for yourself.
READ DN article https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=Aul-kAQHnToC&dat=19851120&printsec=frontpage&hl=en
Things were confusing to say the least. Like I said earlier, today, we have the benefit of knowing what happens. We can view this through the lens where the conclusion is already understood and Hofmann is already in jail serving life + 20, but back when this article was written, everything was up in the air. The possibility that Hofmann wasn’t guilty and that the bomber was still at large began to scare some people that had become comforted by the mounting evidence that Hofmann was the bomber. Now this evidence comes out that he passed the polygraph test and that officials couldn’t necessarily put Hofmann in a location where he could have manufactured the bombs, and people once again started to get a little uneasy.
The end of the article introduced something that is very challenging to wrap my mind around. It said that the justices of the Utah Supreme Court will hear an appeal of a court order to subpoena Hofmann’s nurse to inquire concerning a conversation she overheard between Hofmann and his attorney. This is walking some very fine ethical lines here. There are attorney client privileges that protect information exchanged between attorneys and clients. There is also doctor-patient confidentiality that protects any information exchanged between doctors and patients. But, there is nothing saying that information a nurse overheard in a conversation is subject to any of these protections. This nurse may have overheard Hofmann talking to his attorney about how to play the legal game until a plea bargain is proposed, or she may have heard something about Hofmann being framed and the real bomber still being out there. We will unfortunately never know what she overheard, because her testimony wasn’t admitted to the court as evidence.
The justices walked a very fine line in this decision. Do you admit her testimony as evidence and open pandora’s box to any nurse being subpoenaed into court about a conversation they overheard, or do you ignore her testimony and try to build a case based on hard evidence? What if Hofmann really wasn’t guilty and she overheard the name of the real bomber that was still at large? Her lack of testimony in the court may get an innocent man convicted and let a guilty murderer roam the streets. But if she were subpoenaed to court and gave her testimony, it could just be wholly disregarded as heresay and from then on, all nurses need to worry about what they’ve heard their patients talking about. Once again, you walk some fine ethical lines here. In my opinion, the Utah Supreme Court made the right decision in not hearing her testimony during the trial. They had enough hard evidence, that didn’t rely on overhearing something in conversation, to convict Hofmann, and I think they made a good move.
While the FBI, ATF, and local police were investigating the bombings and amassing evidence for a conviction, the investigation into Hofmann’s documents as forgeries ramped up. There was an overwhelming preponderance of evidence in Hofmann’s home that he was forging old documents, and now they needed to find out just how deep the tendrils of his fraud had extended.
| 17-20 Dec. 1985 | First examination: George Throckmorton and William Flynn begin their investigation of historic documents at the LDS Church Historical Department. They discover cracked ink on documents that Hofmann handled, but they are not sure what caused it. | | | | --------------- | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | | | | 7-20 Jan. 1986 | Second examination in LDS Historical Department by Throckmorton and Flynn. About this time the FBI lab in Washington D.C. reports that its tests had determined that the Harris 1830 letter was not a forgery. Neither was the 1829 printing contract for Book of Mormon. | | | | 22 January 1986 | Third examination by Throckmorton and Flynn, joined by Al Lyter. Exam takes place in the Utah State Crime Lab. | | | | 9 January 1986 | Terri Christensen delivers Steven Fred Christensen, Jr. by cesarean section. It would have been Steve's thirty-second birthday. | | |
What I’m about to read is an extract from UTLM.org. A link will be in the show notes, but basically it goes through a series of quotes from George Throckmorton and William Flynn from various sources quoting what they found wrong with Hofmann’s work as they studied his documents increasingly.
“Document examiners, of course, did find the common denominator between the Salamander letter and the other forgeries in the ink. William Flyn testified: "The...Martin Harris-W.W. Phelps letter also is one of the documents that has the extensive surface cracking of the ink that I have talked about several times now." The Deseret News for May 12, 1986, reported:
"A Utah documents expert has given additional testimony that the controversial Martin Harris letter—better known as the 'White Salamander Letter'—is a forgery....
"The Martin Harris letter Hofmann claimed to have discovered was different in two respects, Throckmorton said Monday. First, after it was folded, it was still possible to look inside and read the letter; and second, the sealing wax was in the extreme right-hand corner, not the center of the document.
"The suspicious cut marks on the Harris letter also were discovered on several other documents Hofmann claimed to have discovered,...
"Throckmorton said the suspicious cut marks were discovered only on documents Hofmann said he discovered and not on any of the other documents he examined....
"Throckmorton also testified about the unusual cracking effect exhibited in the ink on Hofmann's documents. He said he personally examined 688 documents and that 21 showed microscopic ink cracking. Mark Hofmann was the source of all 21 documents....
"Throckmorton added he had never seen the ink cracking phenomenon before and was unaware of similar ink cracking on any legitimate historical documents. After examining hundreds of documents, the expert said, the phenomenon was apparent only in those documents Hofmann claimed to have discovered."
William Flyn testified that he did not believe that the writing on the document "is authentic writing from that time period." Mr. Flyn also said: "The paper itself appears to be genuine period paper. The writing itself does not appear to be genuine writing of that time period." Flyn also noted that "One edge of the document had been cut." He said the cut "probably [was done] with the scissors. It's an irregular cut."
Kenneth Rendell said that when he originally examined the Salamander letter he noticed it was not folded in the way normal cover letters were folded, but he felt that this in itself would not cause him to reject the letter's authenticity. He did state, however, that "There's no logical reason that this letter is folded in the way that it is."
Throckmorton and Flyn seem to feel that the peculiar way that the letter is folded and the evidence of cutting on the side may indicate that the paper used for the Salamander letter came from a larger sheet of old paper.”
Once they found the tell, Hofmann’s forgeries could be seen from a mile away. It was a matter of looking at the ink at a very specific magnification on a microscope that showed cracking. This was the single point where Hofmann’s forgeries could be picked out from a group of documents and be identified without a shadow of a doubt.
However, we run into some problems here. We know any document that Hofmann handled that was purchased or traded during a certain window of time with a certain ink on certain paper that has certain cracking at a certain magnification, is a definite forgery, but that sentence excludes a lot of possibilities. When the police went through Hofmann’s basement, they found multiple vials of different inks, scraps of old paper from multiple sources, and even found some pages of a Book of Mormon Hofmann was working on, possibly the 116 pages supposedly written by Martin Harris. There’s also no telling how much inventory Hofmann moved, we don’t know how many documents he bought or sold, we aren’t even sure of what year he began making these, we don’t know all of the inks he used, or where he found all the source paper.
Given that we can positively identify these documents found in that small window, it leaves a lot of time and materials Hofmann could have manufactured that have yet to come to light. Hofmann may have manufactured plenty of old documents that don’t have the cracked ink, thus making them even harder to detect than the Salamander letter was.
In thinking about the implications of this, I went diving back down a rabbit hole I haven’t been to in well over a year now. Out of curiosity, I looked back into the historical veracity of the Justice Neely court document that calls Joseph Smith “The Glass Looker”. I was fascinated by this when I looked into it for research on Episode 12 of the show, but there was a fair amount of nuance that I had completely forgotten.
I came to question how we know the Neely bill to be real. As the story goes, in 1971, Reverend Wesley P. Walters was rooting around in the basement of the county jail in Norwich, New York. While reading documents and digging through files, Walters, and his friend Fred Poffarl discovered a piece of paper that had Justice Neely’s bill for $2.68 for the trial of Joseph Smith “The Glass Looker” on March 20th, 1826. It’s one single piece of paper unfortunately, not Neely’s entire docket book like historians would hope, but it is one piece of paper that these guys claim they found in the basement of the jail.
If you read through UTLM’s piece about the document, they go through how the document reads exactly as we would expect. The dollar amount is exactly correct, the other names on other trials Neely heard that day match up with the historical record. The document checks out as being legitimate.
This discovery happened in 1971, when Hofmann was 15, so I don’t think he forged the document, but what if Walters did and then just claimed he found it in the basement. The pedigree for the document is basically and affidavit that these guys found it randomly. The pedigree for the Anthon transcript, that Hofmann essentially made his name with, was much more established than he just found it in a basement. Everything on the Anthon transcript is just like we would expect it to be, and Hofmann had convinced a woman to sign an affidavit stating that Hofmann had bought a bible from her Mom that the transcript was conveniently inside of. Most of Hofmann’s documents were just as well substantiated as the document that Walters found. Walters knew that a bill from Albert Neely might exist, and found what he was looking for. Hofmann knew that an Anthon Transcript might exist, and he reportedly found what he was looking for as well.
Point is, I’m not so sure the Neely bill is as trustworthy as I originally thought. I have no reason to think it was manufactured by Wesley Walters, nor do I have any expertise or qualifications to question or verify the document as legitimate, I’m merely pointing out the similarities between the Neely bill and many of Hofmann’s documents and how hard it is to actually determine legitimacy. If a forgery is good enough, it can pass a lot of tests, just like all of Hofmann’s work had done for half a decade before the bombs went off.
I think I’ve tracked down the primary problem with verifying these documents, and that is cost. It costed $6,000 for the initial investigation into the Salamander letter by Kenneth Rendell; Christensen and Hofmann split the bill because it was their transaction. Kenneth Rendell was just an old documents examiner, not a chemist or forensics examiner, he could only look at the paper and handwriting and say it doesn’t look like a forgery. $6,000, even back then, was a bargain for doing an in-depth examination of the Salamander Letter by a licensed and well-practiced documents expert.
George Throckmorton and William Flyn examined the Salamander letter and others of Hofmann’s works because it was their job. It was a legal case the prosecution was bringing against Hofmann, and these men were hired to examine the documents by the state. Who knows what their bills were to the state for conducting such exhaustive and thorough analyses on hundreds of documents.
Throckmorton and Flyn found the cracking in the ink, but that wasn’t the only analysis that was done to prove this was a forgery. I have to give a shoutout to my friend Professor Stephen for helping me understand what we’re about to discuss, you can hear his voice as cohost of the currently on hiatus atheists on air. Professor Stephen has been working in the field of mass spectrometry for years now, and he is a very good chemical science communicator. He gave me a brief rundown of how electron microscopes work and how they were used to age the ink on the Salamander letter paper.
Basically, it requires shooting electrons at a surface, and tracking how they bounce off the thing you’re examining. It creates a nearly perfect image of the item at a molecular level and also tells what kinds of atoms the electrons present in the thing you’re looking at. This is a very simplistic version, so please excuse my own lack of understanding with the description here.
One man, named Roderick J. McNeil conducted a study on thousands of old documents. Using Scanning auger microscopy, McNeil found that iron atoms in ink tend to leech into the paper as it ages. So when ink is first put on paper, the iron atoms are more concentrated. As years progress, however, those iron atoms migrate and basically soak into the paper, for lack of better terms.
To get into the nitty gritty here, over time the iron atoms migrate 1/2000ths of an inch over 1000 years to the paper. So if you look at a word on a piece of paper through an electron microscope once and then wait another 1000 years and look again, the iron atoms will have moved 1/2000th of an inch. An electron microscope can easily measure where on this 1000-year timeframe the ink is in relation to the paper, because the method of measurement is so incredibly precise. Hofmann used Iron-gall ink, which was in common use in the 1830’s and he had to basically make his own ink that would fit with the timeframe in which the documents were written.
Well, in 1984, a study was conducted to date old documents by this Roderick J. McNeil guy. He took thousands of documents from 1200 to 1972 and graded their deterioration on a curve that has held true for over 30 years since the study was conducted. For technical purposes and if you want to look it up, the study was called: “Scanning Auger Microscopy for Dating Manuscript Inks,” there will be a link to the original study in the show notes.
There’s a lot of great information in the study, and this is where I really have to thank Professor Stephen because he read through it and shared the highlights. To put it short, it’s a very reliable technique, some considering it virtually infallible in dating ink. With every document he examined, he did so 10 times in different locations to make sure the tests were precise. He achieved a 90% accuracy rating in the study and was able to date documents with a plus or minus 2.2-year margin of error. The older stuff tested from all the way back in 1050 proved a little more challenging, McNeil was only able to date plus or minus 30 years, so the accuracy moves along a curve, but still, this is insanely accurate for chemically aging ink on documents. Look into the book detecting forgery by Joe Nickell. It apparently goes through the entire process and how it was used to determine that the Howard Hughes autobiography by Clifford Irving was a forgery, as well as details work done on various Hofmann documents that showed themselves as forgeries once examined with this microscopy technique.
You might say, well if Hofmann would have used old iron to mix the ink, it would have aged proportionately with the paper and would have passed that test, but that’s not what this test does. It doesn’t date the ink itself, it dates how long the ink has been in contact with the paper with an accuracy of plus or minus 2.2 years, accurate when used on documents from current up to 800 years ago.
Roderick examined the Salamander letter in mid-1986 and concluded the ink hadn’t been on the paper any time before 1970. McNeil had used the science of Scanning Auger Microscopy to perform the massive document dating study in 1984, and 2 years later, his scientific technique was used as evidence to convict Hofmann and others of fraud. That is a science win and pretty awesome if you ask me.
The dramatic irony here is the fact that Roderick McNeil developed the technique to try and prove the shroud of turin to be real, which he’s published two books about. That study was inconclusive for some reason… It should also be pointed out that the technique used and McNeil’s study are still widely used today in document forensics. It’s not like the guy is a quack, he conducted some real hard science that I just did a terrible job of explaining, that’s still in use today.
The overall point that got us into talking about document aging is cost. We’re talking about a lack of resources being a problem in determining forgeries. McNeil had access to an electron microscope and his body of work, work that had probably cost his funding agency an obscene amount of money to conduct. Even the microscope or a mass spectrometer alone were probably a few hundred thousand dollars. In order to get an expert like McNeil or Throckmorton to do research, and use extremely advanced equipment to do so, somebody has to pay them, and you can be sure that the $6,000 that paid Rendell to examine the Salamander Letter wouldn’t fund 45 minutes of these guys’ work. Now we begin to open up a huge discussion about ethics and money. Who pays for McNeil to look at every Mormon document to determine if it’s real or fake? Who determines what documents McNeil should examine and what documents aren’t important enough to be examined? If we ran every prominent historical document through this study, what might that reveal about the historical record that we’ve taken for granted for so long? See, these are big questions with no easy answers. Questions that require discussion at some other time, possibly in some other place, but for now, let’s get back to Hofmann here and try to advance his storyline through 1986. The evidence was really mounting and his collapsed house of cards was lying in a motionless heap as people rooted through his past to uncover his crimes.
| 4 February 1986 | Prosecutors charge Hofmann with two murder counts, twenty-three counts of theft by deception and communications fraud involving, among others, the Anthon Transcript, Harris Letter, and nonexistent McLellin Collection. Hofmann goes to Salt Lake County Jail. | | | | ---------------- | ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | | | | 5 February 1986 | Probable cause statement released, listing Hofmann documents involved in fraud counts. Investigator George Throckmorton says none of documents described are authentic. | | | | 7 February 1986 | Rendell says several Hofmann documents are forgeries, but he is not sure about Harris letter. Prominent LDS historians, with only media reports about case for fraud to counter earlier reports showing authenticity, maintain view that some of the documents are authentic. | | | | 9 February 1986 | Hofmann released on $250,000 bail. | | | | 11 February 1986 | Salt Lake Tribune quotes James R. Dibowski, former director of US Postal Crime Lab in Cincinnati, contending Joseph Smith III blessing document was genuine. | | | | April 1986 | Prosecutors examine forty witnesses to collect evidence to build their case against Hofmann. | | | | 1 April 1986 | Church announces it is returning court documents received from Hofmann to Hancock County, Illinois. The announcement also lists 48 documents acquired from Hofmann, 41 by donation or trade, and 7 purchased for $57,100. | | | | 4 April 1986 | Hofmann charged with four additional theft by deception counts. | | | | 11 April 1986 | George Throckmorton examines a second copy of â€œOath of a Freemanâ€ loaned to police by Wilding. He says it is a fake printed from a negative made in Salt Lake City. | | |
Everything came crashing down here. Not only the church, but plenty of collectors were coming out of the woodwork claiming they had done business with Hofmann. Maybe they purchased a couple of signatures from him, maybe a Deseret banking note, or a land deed. Maybe they traded a poem or some old books for a single important document. Damage had been done. Damage to the Mormon historical record at an incomprehensible level had been wreaked upon the trusting minds and pocket-books of people involved in that world. Deals had been made and possessions had changed hands. How would you feel if you had purchased something from a document dealer for $10k, only to find out that he had picked it up in a trade from a guy who had purchased it along with other letters, who had purchased it from another guy, who had acquired it through a trade from Mark Hofmann? Well, a lot of people had these documents that originally came from Hofmann, but didn’t find out about the line of possession the document had experienced, to know it was from Hofmann in the first place.
Now we begin to ask more ethical questions. Who pays back everybody in that line for the forgery? Who loses money because they bought the forgery, and if they got it in a trade, who gets what book or document back in what trade when a Hofmann forgery is in the mix? Was it the responsibility of every single person who had ever dealt with Hofmann to come forward and offer up their documents to be tested for legitimacy, and who pays for the thousands of hours of testing necessary to identify forgeries? Was it those person’s responsibility to track down every single document they ever bought from Hofmann to let the buyer know that they may have purchased a forgery? Brent Ashworth claimed Hofmann sold him $225,000 worth of forgeries, who pays him back for that? Hofmann was responsible for a small chunk of the debt that required CFS to file for bankruptcy being $5mn in debt to its investors, who pays for all the damage done with CFS? The LDS Church had returned the Book of Commandments they got in trade for the Joseph Smith III Blessing to the RLDS church, so that was a relatively simple way to reverse the damage done, but the majority of other trades weren’t that simple. These are some complicated situations all stemming from the damage Hofmann did in a mere 6 years’ time.
| 14 April 1986 | Preliminary hearing in the case ofThe State of Utah vs. Mark W. Hofmann begins. | | | | ------------- | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ | | | | 18 April 1986 | Investigators show that Hofmann used â€œMike Hansenâ€ alias and that Mike Hansen bought bomb ingredients and engraved plates used to print some documents sold by Hofmann. | | | | 18 April 1986 | Former LDS Church Archivist Don Schmidt testifies that Church took few steps to authenticate documents obtained from Hofmann, indicating that most documents were examined solely on basis of their historical contexts. | | | | 20 April 1986 | LDS Church announced that forty-eight documents were purchased or otherwise obtained from Hofmann. The Church paid Hofmann $57,100 for seven items, the other forty-one were acquired by donation or trade. | | | | 23 April 1986 | Hofmann reinjured his knee; falling and fracturing his kneecap. Hearing postponed until 5 May. | | |
The realm of Mormon history was reeling at these revelations that the church had purchased or traded to Hofmann so many documents and other items. We’re talking a lot of money given to buy forgeries, possibly for the sake of suppressing them, and the church had to come out and say publicly they had been so wildly duped by Hofmann. These men that are prophets, seers, and revelators, that are incapable of leading the church astray and have the power of discernment, had been fooled by a sophisticated con-man.
| May 1986 | Brigham Young University Studies special issue focuses on tests the Harris and Smith letters had been subjected to and on issues raised by the letters, including treasure hunting in and before Joseph Smith's time, based on non-Hofmann sources. | | | | ---------- | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ | | | | 3 May 1986 | Mormon History Association Annual Meetings, Salt Lake City. Special Session on Early Mormon History. Papers by Ronald Walker and Alan Taylor later published inDialogue19 (Winter 1986). At the same meetings Richard Lloyd Anderson makes a slide-lecture presentation on the Joseph Smith to Hyrum Smith Revelation-Letter [May 1838] showing the problems with the post mark. | | |
All of these documents were being openly discussed by historians in and out of the church. The Salamander letter was still being questioned and talks about examining other Hofmann documents were surfacing. Oddly though, talks about the McLellin collection seem absent from what I’ve been reading lately. The McLellin collection was really Hofmann’s Achilles heel, it was the final straw that broke him, and after talks about the papyri from the McLellin collection had died off, anybody talking about the whole collection surfacing seemed occupied with everything else that was going on.
| 7 May 1986 | William Flynn, investigator for Arizona State Crime Lab, announces cracked ink proves Harris letter and other Hofmann documents were forged. | | | | ---------------- | ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | | | | 22 May 1986 | Hofmann bound over to Utah Third District Court for trial on charges of murder and fraud. On 6 June he pleads not guilty to all charges. Judges rule that Hofmann would face five separate trials; the first, for murder, scheduled for 2 March 1987. | | | | 24 May 1986 | Unanswered questions, including how Hofmann passed polygraph test, remain after preliminary hearings end. Based on what public has been told, many people still reluctant to agree with prosecution's case. | | | | Summer/Fall 1986 | Roderick McNeil uses a scanning auger microscope to examine the age of the ink on the documents Hofmann sold to the Church. He concludes that none were written before 1970. | | | | 16 October 1986 | Church announces that a search of its archives and First Presidency's vault found no Oliver Cowdery history. | | |
This is a very interesting press release. The Oliver Cowdery history was a rumor the church just couldn’t kill. Since the rumor was popularized in May of 1985 that the church was hiding the Oliver Cowdery history, no amount of press releases could satisfy the public’s salivation for that document. Add in the fact that less than a month before Hofmann told the press that the church is hiding the Oliver Cowdery history that the church was hiding the existence of the 1825 Smith-Stowell letter, and public trust of the Church’s statements was at an all-time low. If they were hiding something as small as a business contract between Joseph’s father and Josiah Stowell, why wouldn’t they hide something as incriminating as the Cowdery history that credits Alvin Smith with finding the gold plates instead of Joseph Smith? That seems like a legitimate question even today… Let’s read a bit from that press release and see what we can glean from it. There is a link to this archived photocopy newspaper for October 16, 1986 in the show notes, follow it to page B-1 to find the story from which I’m reading.
READ DN Cowdery History https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=Aul-kAQHnToC&dat=19861016&printsec=frontpage&hl=en
They sure seemed pretty emphatic when it came to denying they had this history in their possession, or even that it exists. I’m not really sure how to interpret this, and my own biases of distrusting the church are probably clouding my judgement, but when a child tells you straight-forward that they didn’t draw on the wall, in fact, they don’t even have a marker that’s the color of the writing that’s on the wall, it seems a little spurious. If a large company emphatically claims in public statements that it’s not doing any underhanded business deals in Panama, it may be a good idea to check their books. If the government says that it’s doing things for your protection, and you see a newspaper article that presents evidence that they funded terrorist activities in Nicaragua, Afghanistan, and other places, the first claim seems a little spurious. See the same newspaper article in the show links for what I was just referring to.
My point is, if Hofmann claimed that the church had something that they didn’t want to share, he was usually able to make that claim and have it backed up by reality, because he had personally manufactured and sold or traded it to them. I made this point last episode, Hofmann didn’t just recklessly try to make the church look foolish, he was calculated in doing so, and I would think he wouldn’t have leaked to the press that the Cowdery history exists if it didn’t exist. My research has led me to believe the church has the Cowdery history, probably penned by Hofmann himself, and is continuing to suppress it, inflicting a massive disservice to the Mormon historical community, and barring us from unearthing another Hofmann document. The church was claiming very emphatically that they didn’t have the Cowdery history, and Hofmann was behind bars, unable to construct any elaborate scenario to force their hand, as he had done many times in the past. It makes me wonder what else the church may have locked away in their vaults that are nothing more than Hofmann forgeries…
But, of course, this is my own personal opinion, heavily influenced by the research I’ve done so far. I chose not to trust church officials and historians at their word because I’ve been burned by doing so in the past. I personally haven’t been through the archives like they have, nor have I seen the president’s vault like they have, so I’m the much less informed party in this circumstance.
Let’s finish with Hofmann’s timeline here. In early October of 1986, the Tanners of UTLM released the first copy of “Tracking the White Salamander,” which has been my primary source for so much of what’s gone into the research for Hofmann. If all the forensic and authorship analyses hadn’t done it in by this point, publishing this book was the final nail in the Salamander Letter’s coffin. It put everything to rest and detailed so much of Hofmann’s work and his interactions with the Tanner’s.
Finally, by late 1986, Hofmann threw in the towel.
| Early Dec. 1986 | Defense attorney Yengich and Prosecutor Stott begin open discussions about a plea bargain. | | | | ---------------- | ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | | | | 7 January 1987 | Plea bargain agreed to. | | | | 7-8 January 1987 | Stott and David Biggs drive to Yengich's home in Salt Lake City. Hofmann confesses his crimes to them. | | | | 22 January 1987 | Yengich forces Mark Hofmann to confront his family with his guilt. | | | | 23 January 1987 | Plea bargain announced. Hofmann pleads guilty to two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of communication fraud involving the Harris Letter and McLellin Papers. Twenty-six other counts dismissed and Hofmann agrees to be interviewed about the murders and documents. He goes to the Utah State Prison. Belief continues among some historians that not all Hofmann-related documents are forgeries. | | |
This was the end of Hofmann to the legal system. After so much work went in to amassing evidence to prove his guilt, after 40 interviews were conducted and the threat of 5 separate trials were hanging over Hofmann’s head, he signed a plea bargain, and was sentenced to life plus 20 in the Utah State Prison in Draper Utah.
After all the damage he’d done, Hofmann did something noble, he agreed to be interviewed about everything. From mid-February to the end of May 1987, a battery of interviews was conducted with Hofmann so he could hopefully shed some light on the subject. He was finally beaten. Dorie Olds, his wife, had filed for divorce. He was on the hook for life in prison with no hope of parole. He had lost his home, family, friends, business acquaintances, and his freedom altogether. The last thing he could do for humanity was give us information about the damage he’d caused and the appalling amount of work he’d done. After the interviews were conducted, a 600-page report was released containing nearly every word spoken between Hofmann and his interviewers.
Ever since this book was released, Hofmann has gone dark. He only takes visits from his ex-wife and children, and refuses to give any interviews or sign licensing away to have a movie made about him.
Well, I’m very excited to announce that Mark Hofmann, THE MARK HOFMANN has agreed to break his vow of silence for an exclusive world first podcast interview. Believe it or not, the Salt Lake correctional facility was nice enough to organize transportation and security measures, and Mark is sitting right here in my living room with me. Mark, thanks for making the trip out here and doing this.
M: Uhh, yeah, You’re welcome
B: This is going to be a pretty standard interview; do you mind answering a few questions about yourself?
M: Yeah, but I don’t want to be away from my cell for too long, so let’s get to it.
B: Sounds good. Mark, you’re credited with being one of the most prolific and professional document forgers out there. You’re work spans from signatures of prominent historical figures, Mormon or otherwise, to bank notes, to even some kinderhook plates. You forged two copies of the earliest known document printed in America, that’s the Oath of a Freeman, and even claimed to have work from Edgar Allen Poe and a Charles Dickens manuscript. Can I just ask, when did you get started with the hobby of forging things?
M: Well, when I was 15, I electroplated a rare mint mark on a coin, making it worth several thousand dollars. I took the coin to a dealer who sent it to the U.S. Treasury in Washington, D.C., which pronounced it as authentic. My rationalization was that if the Treasury Department pronounces it genuine, then it is genuine by my definition. I devised the plan to manufacture and sell documents to the church while I was on my mission. I’m an atheist now.
B: Interesting, you got started earlier than I thought.
M: I had been forging for 22 years, that’s all I think about! Sometime around 1979, I was talking with A.J. Simmons about a book called “The Word”. The plot of the book centers around a forgery of the 5th gospel of Jesus, the gospel of James. He jokingly said that when he retires, he’ll forge the ultimate Nauvoo diary then sell it to BYU. We both laughed at the time, but he didn’t realize I was doing it already. I’ve been doing this since I was 12 years old.
B: What really got you interested in Mormon history and making these forgeries?
M: The more I studied about Joseph Smith and his writing, the better I got.
B: So it was really just a fascination with Joseph Smith and Mormon history, then you began making forgeries?
M: Whenever I needed money, I thought up something to forge. I would think, what would Joseph Smith say in this situation? I would just put myself in his shoes, and say whatever I thought he would say.
B: Tell me about your first real forgery, the second anointing blessing you supposedly “Found”.
M: That was a crude forgery! I used some of the words in D&C 124, and said what I thought Joseph Smith probably would have said. I knew Joseph Smith was deeply involved in temple rights at that time, and thought he would probably use language similar to the language found in D&C 124.
B: After that you came out with the Anthon Transcript, supposedly written by Joseph Smith showing the characters that were on the Gold plates.
M: I wanted mine to look like it came first and that the others were copied from it. I used the Whitmer version and just added a few flourishes to make it look different.
B: Tell me a little about the church and the Salamander Letter.
M: I thought it would be worth more money than I got. I also thought the Church would hide it.
B: Do you see how some people might claim that you were changing Mormon history by creating this Salamander letter?
M: I won’t go as far to say I wanted to change Mormon history. Let me take that back. Maybe I did. In effect, I guess the questions I asked myself in deciding on a forgery, one of the questions was, what could have been? I had a concept of church history, and I followed that concept. Originally, initially it was more of the fame involved, although I thought all along that it would be sold, and the more publicity I got, the better.
B: Did fame really have that much to do with it, or was it also that you like to bamboozle people by making them believe a lie, whether it was a lie you directly told the person, or a lie in the form of a document you forged?
M: I’m an expert, I’ve done it hundreds of times. It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am! I can look a person in the eye and lie. I can fool anybody. Obviously, if I would have known they would someday be detected, I wouldn’t have done it.
B: Hmmm, I think that speaks volumes to your initial motivations for doing this, possible delusions of grandeur and a con-man personality. You just enjoyed fooling people. Tell me about what landed you in prison. I want to know about the bombings specifically why Steven Christensen and Gary Sheets?
M: I first considered killing Thomas Wilding, or Brent Ashworth, then the second bomb would kill me. Then I finally targeted Christensen. The bomb at the Sheets home was simply a diversion so that everyone would believe that the bombings were the result of CFS business problems.
B: I also wanted to ask, why bombs? Why not kill them some other, less messy way?
M: I was attracted to bombs as a murder weapon because then I wouldn’t have to be present when the explosives were detonated. I didn’t think I could pull a gun trigger if I had to face my victims, but I could kill if I didn’t have to be around when it happened.
B: How incredibly cowardly and heartless of you. Gary Sheets was just collateral damage then, a diversion?
M: I don’t even remember meeting Sheets, I had to look up his address in the phone book before I delivered the bomb. It didn’t matter to me if the Sheets bomb went off or not because its purpose was to establish a diversion. For this purpose, the death was not necessary. I realize, of course, that the bomb left at the house could kill or severely injure someone, but it didn’t really matter to me.
B: Do you see how some might take something like that and paint you as a sadist or psychopathic in some way? When you have no regard for human life, maybe some of those horrible things people have said about you are more accurate than I initially understood. I’m trying to understand the man Mark Hofmann here, not the murderer, not the bomber, not the forger, the person. Give me something to work with here, Mark.
M: The night before the bombings, it took me about 2 hours to make the bombs in my basement. I went and placed the first bomb in front of Gary’s house around 3 in the morning. When I got home, my daughter woke up so I went and took care of her until she went back to sleep. A few hours later I went and dropped off the bomb in the judge building for Steven. Before I walked into the building to drop off the bomb for Steve, I took off my gloves and left them in a trash can outside. (Why did you do that?) To test fate.
B: You may be a murderer, but you still obviously love your family, and would do anything to help them. Even amidst being an active killer, you still stayed up at 330 in the morning with your daughter to make sure she fell asleep. You literally did that in between dropping off two bombs to take away other people’s lives. From what I understand, telling your family about the forgeries was the hardest thing you ever had to do.
M: The day the plea bargain was announced, my father, William, kept saying Mark is an innocent boy, it was really hard on my family. When Mac Christensen, Steven’s dad saw my father in the courtroom, he said to my father that his family’s love is with the Hofmann family. My dad cried.
B: Walk me through the next day. The bombs had gone off in the judge building and at the Sheets residency, brutally murdering two very good people, tell me about the bomb going off in your car.
M: The explosion in the sports car was a suicide attempt. The next day I went to Logan to buy parts for the third bomb. I assembled it in Logan Canyon, making it substantially larger than the others because I wanted a quick and clean death.
B: People might say that you were part of a conspiracy, and that you were bombed by somebody else and you only went to jail to take the fall. I don’t believe any of these claims, because I think you were plenty capable of orchestrating all of this by yourself, but tell me--- cut off
M: I acted alone in everything I did.
B: Okay, I suppose that answers that question. People paint you as a heartless sadistic atheist with no sense of morality. Even your mission diaries show you had problems with the church and belief in god, what would you say to people that claim you did this and have no morals because you’re an atheist?
M: I never cheated anybody if they thought what they were buying was authentic. As long as the buyer believed it to be true, then it was authentic. That’s how I treat belief in the church, if you believe in it, it’s true for you and it doesn’t seem to matter what others say.
B: Once again, I think that just paints you as a nihilistic sadist with no remorse for your actions. Don’t you see how creating forgeries is a problem and destroys the trusted historical record? Don’t you see the damage you did with every fraudulent document you sold or traded away? You made people believe in things that aren’t true. We can condemn the truth claims of the LDS church by sticking to the facts, by reporting what actually happened; but you would rather manufacture your own history with these documents you forged. You cheated EVERYBODY! You did untold damage to the trustworthiness of the historical record! How can you think you have any moral high ground here?!
M: I want to clarify all of this, how all of this fraud and stuff took place. My view is, when I forged a document and sold it, I was not cheating that person that I was selling it to because the document would never be detected as being a fraud. I didn’t feel like I was cheating people because I always intended to give them what they wanted, their money’s worth.
B: That’s probably the most horrible thing you’ve said this far. Belief in something doesn’t make it true! People have been believing in God for millennia and none of their beliefs have made god true! You manufactured a false reality and sold it as fact! You took existing evidence around you and constructed a narrative that you were comfortable with and then sold that narrative to people for obscene amounts of money. You created a lifestyle built on lies! You are no better than any pastor, holy man, shamen, faith healer, or prophet! On top of that, you killed two people right before you nearly killed yourself. I’ve been reading up on you for a while, and at some level, I admire your work. You forced the church to confront things in its history that the leadership wanted to keep locked away forever. You began conversations about Joseph Smith in households that had never come to question the occult rituals the young man practiced. You did so much to help expose the lengths the church would go to in order to conceal the skeletons in their closet. You forced them to open up their vault and more importantly their pocket books and dared them to do exactly what you expected them to do. You have done such good work to help the field of Mormon history. But… the cost of your work. The deaths. The ruined families. The 7 parentless children your actions caused. Your own family and friends that will never see you or talk to you again. The havoc you wreaked on the trust of Mormon scholars and historians for decades to come. The cost was simply too much. I can’t think of any other way you could have had better results, but the cost of the results and the devastation left in the wake of your actions was just not worth it. I don’t have anything else to add. If there is one last thing you could share with the listeners that would shed some light on who the real Mark Hofmann is, what would it be?
M: When I was a young child, I was given a metal detector. I took some friends out into the field to look for money and found a jar of coins. They were amazed. Little did they know that I had gone into the field earlier and buried the coins so we could find them.
B: Mark, I have a lot to say about that, but I’m afraid our time has come to a close. Thank you for breaking your vow of silence and travelling up to Seattle to talk with me today. I wish you would sign the rights over so we could make a movie about you, people would love it. Good bye, Mark.
M: Good bye.
An enlightening interview to say the least. And what a surprise to have the actual Mark Hofmann in my living room to interview, breaking a nearly 30-year vow of silence, am I right?
George Throckmorton put 120 hours into studying the Salamander Letter before he found the cracked ink that was the giveaway. He, along with a few others in document forensics, spent thousands of man-hours poring over documents Hofmann bought or sold. Out of 443 document they examined, they found that 268 (60%) were authentic, 107 (24%) were definite forgeries, and 68 (15%) were undetermined. Of those 443 documents, 48 had been bought or sold to the church, the rest were among multiple private collectors. That’s what made Hofmann so hard to nail down.
What’s even crazier is they were able to determine when he had changed a document, easier than they were able to identify a document he had written from start to finish. One of his last documents was a land deed between Solomon Spalding and Sidney Rigdon from 1822. Well, originally, it was a real document signed with the name Asa Spalding, dated in 1792, before Rigdon was born. Hofmann changed the date to read 1822, wrote in Rigdon’s signature, and changed the Asa Spalding to Solomon, with 1822 being a date after Spalding’s death in 1816. It was much easier to identify this legitimate old document that had changes done to it as a forgery, than it was to identify the Salamander letter as a forgery which had been invented from top to bottom by Hofmann.
His forgeries still surface today and pass muster. Recently a penny that was made by Hofmann sold for $48,000 at a Beverly Hills auction as a legitimate coin. We have no way of telling how much damage Hofmann really inflicted upon the realm of honest historical study. And I guess that’s the most frustrating part, isn’t it? If he was a terrible forger, he would have been caught early on, and his work wouldn’t have infected the field of study, but unfortunately for us all, he was a master, an artist, a con-man, and an incredible reader of people.
What’s more than that, he was completely obsessive about his work. From every description I’ve found of him, he was completely nondescript, until you questioned his work. This is a quote from Brent Ashworth, the man who was swindled out of nearly a quarter of a million dollars’ worth of forgeries by Hofmann.
“When I called him a liar or questioned one of the documents, he'd lose his temper. Nothing else seemed to make him mad.”
From what I’ve read, it seems like a lot of Hofmann’s ego was wrapped up in his ability to deceive people. From our interview to hearing Ashworth talk about questioning Hofmann’s documents infuriated him, it just seems like Hofmann’s entire existence was dependent upon other people’s amazement at something he did or made.
I think I made this point last episode, but it needs to be reiterated. Hoffman arguably did a good thing. That’s a horrible thing to say when it includes killing two people in disgusting, painful ways, but he showed the world that we can sniff out fakes and forgeries when it comes to the historical record. History isn’t so much of a science, but the way we do science on history is by determining probabilities. And in the long run, that’s all science really is, determining probabilities. Was it probable that one man came up with all of these remarkable documents without something fishy going on? But even before that question was asked, was it probable that the Salamander Letter was worded in a way we would expect something Martin Harris wrote down to be worded? Not really when we compare the letter to Harris’ other works in a scientific manner. Was it probable that Mark Hofmann found two copies of the Oath of a Freeman, the most elusive and rare document in all American history? Not very, so the Library of Congress didn’t pay the $1.5 mn for it. And I know the case can be made that the Salamander letter, or the Joseph Smith III blessing, or even the Anthon Transcript fooled so many people that were scientifically examining them, and that’s completely true, but not for very long. We’re talking about a maximum of 2 years the Salamander was in existence that it was able to fool nearly everybody, but that’s 2 years that it swayed the minds of some people in a field of study that’s been active for over a century, studied by thousands of people. The Salamander Letter didn’t make an actual dent in the field of Mormon historical studies, it was a tiny blip on the historical radar until it was proven a forgery using scientific measures.
The point is, we used the existing body of trustworthy scholarship and historical studies to identify a forgery. Doesn’t that speak to the factual accuracy of this field more than anything?
A few episodes back I made the point that if everything I’ve studied to produce this podcast was all anti-Mormon lies, then it represents the largest conspiracy ever orchestrated. A shadow society of people would have to exist, unbeknownst to everybody else in the field, that exists for the sole purpose of manufacturing information and putting it out there as legitimate Mormon facts. We’re talking a conspiracy the likes of which the world has never known, in order to completely wash the truth out of books and the internet for 180 years and replace it with their own anti-Mormon narrative. It sounds ridiculous, right?
That’s because Hoffman is a perfect example of what happens when somebody actually conspires to make anti-Mormon forgeries and lies. When somebody like Hofmann starts injecting their own lies into the field of study, educated people in the field begin to stand up pretty quickly and say, “Something doesn’t look right with this situation, we need to dive into this to find the truth.” It only took 4 years of Hofmann’s really active meddling with the record for people like the Tanner’s and others to stand up and say, “we have a problem, maybe things aren’t quite what they seem”. And now that we caught him, and we understand the scope of his forgeries, we can effectively cleanse the record of damage done. We wouldn’t be able to do that if not for the lifetimes of study that have been dedicated to building up this body of knowledge.
Seven books have been written about Mark Hofmann. 7 entire books have been dedicated to telling this man’s story. I only really referenced 2 of them, Tracking the White Salamander and the Mormon Murders, but a huge body of scholarship has been dedicated to nothing more than exposing Hofmann’s life and forgeries.
Even though so much work has gone into trying to understand this anomaly of a human being, I still can’t help but feel like we’ve been cheated. I’m not referring to Hofmann’s forgeries, but rather to Hofmann himself. I’ve been doing a lot of reading on him and watching plenty of presentations about who Hofmann was, and I hate to say it, but with most of what I’ve learned this far, it all seems too simplistic. I feel like Hofmann was cheated out of a fair trial, but the plea bargain got him out of the death penalty, so that’s an overall good, but it seems like he was painted as nothing short of a monster.
If you read a lot of the news articles I’ve been reading on this guy, you’ll see what I’m talking about. They sold the story of a heartless villain that set out on a mission to smear the church’s record and spread cancerous lies to anybody he could get his ravenous clutches on. He would fly overhead searching for a helpless little rich document collector that was gullible enough to buy into the Hofmann version of Mormon history, and he would swoop down at the breakneck speed of mach Hofmann and snap their pathetic spines with his own little wit and charm, bending their credulity and deep pocketbooks to his will, and creating a following of trusting zombies that wholesale bought everything he manufactured.
He’s the greatest adversary, a humanization of the evil forces that strive to collapse the church upon itself, and break the good will of the humble followers of the one true religion. He’s the dark figure in the night that hides in the deepest recesses of a believer’s mind, encouraging doubts and spawning unanswerable questions that will only drive members to leave and testimonies to wither. The beckoning call of his symphony of lies is far too appealing to simply ignore. Once a person begins to think like Hofmann and question the church, they are better off dead, than to think ill of the church’s past.
So many of the newspaper articles I read sound just as fearmongering and apocalyptic as everything I just said. But, they captured the public opinion of Hofmann. Most of the people that were reading the Deseret News already had such derogatory opinions of Hofmann and those articles were extremely effective at furthering that simplistic caricature.
But we simply can’t ignore the good that Hofmann did. I feel like last episode shed a much broader light upon the real Hofmann. Where so many of the articles I read lasered in on one aspect of Hofmann’s work and personality, the evil aspect, I feel like walking in the room and turning the light on to really see the whole picture. Hofmann was so much more than the anti-Mormon boogey-man who heinously murdered two people.
He was a loving father. He was an avid student of the same exact people that I’m studying from right now, whether it be the Tanners, Grant Palmer, H. Michael Marquardt, or any other Mormon historian, Hofmann loved to learn about history. He loved it so much that he brought it to life by making documents that fit into the history he was learning. And this is where I feel the most cheated. I want to know who the real Mark Hofmann is.
I can’t help but see some serious parallels here. Hofmann loved to swindle people by making them believe that he had some kind of magic knowledge of where to find old Mormon documents. He came onto the scene by claiming he had access to old things that nobody else had access to, and could dig around and find historical documents that nobody else could. He loved it when people marveled at his work. He loved to make that interpersonal connection of fulfilling somebody’s need. Many people quoted him with asking people what they were looking for, and he would come back weeks or months later and fulfill that need…. For the right price.
As time progressed and he gathered more people that were buying into what he was selling and believing anything he told them, he began to live quite lavishly. He ate extremely good meals, drove a brand new sports car, lived in nice homes, was attempting to buy a house that would be worth well over a million dollars today. He accrued more than $1.3 mn in personal debt with the business deals he was making. Eventually, he couldn’t handle the pressure, and everything came collapsing in on Hofmann. People knew about his fraud and they were going to expose him, so he decided on the apocalyptic answer of killing 2 people and nearly killing himself. For reasons that are unclear to everybody, when Hofmann had no options left, he went with the nuclear option, causing destruction, death and mayhem at the expense of everybody around him.
And what about that story when he was young. Somehow, Hofmann got ahold of a metal detector and told his friends he knew where he could find buried treasure. They go out poking around in the field, and lo and behold, right where Hofmann had buried the jar of coins before, they found the exact treasure they were looking for. Are you serious?!
I’m going to read from a court document that came to us in 1873. In the realm of historical terms, this is a very reliable document that was reprinted three separate times when it surfaced, each reprinting being copied from the original document. There’s an entire pedigree attached to this document, suffice it to say, we can rely on the information as being fairly historically accurate. The pages recounting this court proceeding were torn from the docket book of Justice Albert Neely, who was the presiding judge over Joseph Smith’s 1826 trial. Check the show notes for a link to UTLM’s entire story behind this document. Josiah Stowell, Joseph Smith’s good friend and fellow treasure hunter testified:
“Josiah Stowel sworn: says that prisoner had been at his house something like five months; had been employed by him to work on farm part of time; that he pretended to have skill of telling where hidden treasures in the earth were by means of looking through a certain stone; that prisoner had looked for him sometimes; once to tell him about money buried in Bend Mountain in Pennsylvania, once for gold on Monument Hill, and once for a salt spring; and that he positively knew that the prisoner could tell, and did 'possess the art of seeing those valuable treasures through the medium of said stone; …. that prisoner had told by means of this stone where a Mr. Bacon had buried money; that he and prisoner had been in search of it; that prisoner had said it was in a certain root of a stump five feet from surface of the earth, and with it would be found a tail feather; that said Stowel and prisoner thereupon commenced digging, found a tail feather, but money was gone; that he supposed the money moved down…. That he had been in company with prisoner digging for gold, and had the most implicit faith in prisoner's skill.”
Let’s see how long this analogy holds. Joseph Smith was a very curious and intelligent young man. He began reading books about nearly anything he could get his hands on. Whether they were religious pamphlets circulating during the second great awakening, or it was his Dad’s bible, or whatever could be picked up from the bargain bin at the E.B. Grandin print store, or brought home with him from the couple years of school he attended. Joseph practiced treasure digging, spending hours looking into a rock in his hat, telling people around him what special knowledge he had they nobody else could have. Smith was the foremost authority on seeing things, mostly buried things, but occasionally other things as well. Joseph enjoyed the feeling he got when he would tell somebody something, and they would completely believe him. He would tell them he knew where to find some lost treasure they were looking for, or possibly a horse the person had recently lost. Joseph would lie to the people around him, and make business deals he couldn’t keep. By the time 1837 had rolled around, Joseph Smith had accrued $1.3 mn of today’s dollars in debt with his bad business practices and poor management of money. Some people around him knew he was a fraud, but Joseph still kept persisting and digging himself deeper.
By 1844, Joseph had so many enemies, and so much debt from multiple sources. Worse than that, a guy named William Law was about to publish a newspaper that would expose Joseph’s polygamy and fraud to the world. People were about to find out how much of a con-man Joseph was, so he chose the apocalyptic answer and blew up the printing press that published the paper. Over the days following Joseph’s rash action of tyranny and suppression of information, he went with the nuclear option and turned himself in, thinking it was the end for him. Before Joseph died in the Carthage shootout, he killed two people, fell out of a window, and was unwillingly shot multiple times at point blank range, never standing on trial for his actions.
While the stories aren’t mirrored images, there are some prominent similarities we can’t ignore. I suppose that’s what this whole trilogy of episodes has been centered around, and probably why I can’t seem to get enough of Hofmann. I’ve said many times that I absolutely love Joseph Smith for reasons I can’t fully comprehend, I just love a compelling individual, and Joseph was definitely that, among other things. And I guess the reason’s I’ve been researching Joseph Smith so much are the same reasons why I spent so much time on Mark Hofmann.
I started reading about Joseph Smith because I was tired of the cardboard cutout that I had known my whole life. Joseph Smith was the prophet, holy, pious, and nearly infallible all his holy days. The ground he walked on practically glowed with the reverence that Joseph radiated from his visage. That version of Joseph Smith bored me, and is about as compelling as a stone rolling down a hill.
I only knew Joseph with these simple words, prophet, seer, revelator and missed out on the dynamic part of Joseph that makes him a compelling personality.
Well, I guess that’s where the analogy between Joseph and Mark is strongest. I only knew Mark Hofmann by the words murderer, forger, bomber, killer, adversary, liar, and I missed out on the dynamic part of Hofmann that makes him a real person with a compelling story. I don’t think there’s really any way to comprehend Hofmann, he’s just too complicated. There are so many moving pieces that make up his personality and trying to describe him with simple words just isn’t enough. That’s the parallel between Joseph and Mark that I find so holds me in rapture, and has effectively devoured every waking moment of the past 3 weeks. One could spend a lifetime researching either of these men and never truly understand who they are.
Among their many parallels, that are striking to say the least, I find one major difference. Joseph Smith was exposed and caught in a day when printing materials were the cheapest they had been in history up to that point. Anybody could go to the local print shop and pay them to print off a pamphlet that said whatever the person wanted. Information was travelling at the speed of a horse everywhere throughout settled America, and most people knew about that crazy cult of Mormonites. Joseph went with the nuclear option of blowing up the printing press only once he realized he would be exposed to the world. Bible scholars, preachers, historians, and other intellectuals were suspecting Joseph as a con-man and he didn’t want to be exposed.
Similarly, when Hofmann was about to be exposed, he went with his nuclear option. But before deciding to kill two people, scholars, bishops, historians, forensics experts, and other people in relevant fields were beginning to suspect that Hofmann was a con-man and he didn’t want to be exposed. These points may sound exactly the same, but the difference I find is the availability of knowledge in 1836 as opposed to 1986. If not for the thousands of hours dedicated to studying Hofmann’s work, we may never have found out he was a con-man, especially if he would have been slightly more cautious about his business practices. It took an age of lightning fast communication and wide availability of books to historians and scholars to even begin to question Hofmann’s work, and once those questions were asked, it was only a matter of time before he was caught.
I suppose that’s the greatest part of the information age we’re experiencing right now. Con-men have to work much harder than Joseph did in his time to not be discovered, and in the end, they usually slip up and get caught anyway. I would contend, however, that had Hofmann lived in the 1830’s, we might be singing praise to that man who communes with Jehovah. He may have started up his own religion with his ability to “find” original gospel manuscripts or something. He may have “found” an artifact that was once Jesus’ and start a cult that worships Hofmann in addition to Jesus, instead of Joseph Smith in addition to Jesus.
But, he couldn’t do it in the 1980’s and he sure couldn’t do it today. Hofmann operated at the very edge of when the internet was starting, imagine the level of communication between people that were being defrauded by him today. If another Hofmann cropped up today, how quickly do you think he would be caught with scholars and historians in constant contact with each other? Arguably, the whole reason Hofmann chose to kill Christensen was because he was about to meet with Kenneth Rendell, a document examiner, and this meeting would expose Hofmann to both of them as a fraud. Imagine how fast Hofmann would have been caught if those men were taking photos of the papyri on their phones and emailing them back and forth to each other as would be the case today.
And I suppose that might be the overall point to all of this… The only way to catch a con-man is with more information and wider education. Con-men come in all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, and places. They might be in the form of a guy selling you a knife set, but the real deal is in selling the knives for yourself. A con-man might be buying cheap watch parts from China and manufacturing Rolexes to sell on the street. He might say, I found this buried treasure we’ve been looking for, treasure that may have been buried in the ground, or buried in a box of old documents. And most vindictively, a con-man might come up to you and say, I know the one and only way to get to heaven, do you want to join my church?
The only way to catch these people and identify them as con-people is to spread information by educating people. Often times, the problem with con-people is they’re widely liked. People really liked Hofmann and couldn’t picture him as a fraud. People love Joseph, arguably moreso now than when he was alive, and they can’t picture him as a fraud.
This is a quote from Hugh Nibley, a Mormon apologist and author, about Joseph Smith’s 1826 court trial.
“…if this court record is authentic it is the most damning evidence in existence against Joseph Smith… [it would be] the most devastating blow to Smith ever delivered.”
This is from Francis Kirkham, another Mormon apologist.
“If a court record could be identified, and it contained a confession by Joseph Smith which revealed him to be a poor, ignorant, deluded, and superstitious person—unable himself to write a book of any consequence, and whose church could not endure because it attracted only similar persons of low mentality—if such a court record confession could be identified and proved, then it follows that his believers must deny his claimed divine guidance which led them to follow him… How could he be a prophet of God, the leader of the Restored Church to these tens of thousands, if he had been the superstitious fraud which the pages from a book declared he confessed to be?”
Whether it’s Nibley, Kirkham, or Brent Ashworth, people don’t like it when their hero is shown in true color as a fraud. Both of those quotes were written before Walters found Neely’s bill to substantiate the trial. After Walters found the bill, these apologists went eerily silent… You wonder why…
So how do we bring this all together? We’re cracking the 9nth hour of podcast about Hofmann here; we need to take away a proper lesson from this. I guess the final thing I would say is, skepticize everything. If you’re skeptical about any given claim that a person makes, that instantly makes you less likely to be conned than the person standing next to you. It would be nice if we could all just get along, and agree to not steal from each other, or defraud one another, but that’s not the world we live in, and human nature simply won’t allow it. The only thing we can do is take prophylactic measures to guard ourselves and our loved ones against people like Hofmann and Smith. If you see a loved one that starts to buy into something that sounds too good to be true, it’s your duty to skepticize the situation and ask that person, how much do you really know about this thing you’re about to buy, or be baptized in to. How probable is it that Hofmann would actually find the EXACT thing you were looking for? How probable is it that these Mormons are ACTUALLY the one true church? How much do you really know about the document dealer Mark Hofmann? How much do you really know about the real Joseph Smith, not the prophet they tell you about?
And it has to be said, it sounds like I’m shining a negative light on Hofmann right now, and that’s not the case at all. Like I said before, I love Joseph Smith, and I’ve come to love the real Joseph the more I learn about him. I only seek to understand the man. Well, the parallels don’t stop here, and I have to say that I love Mark Hofmann. The more I learn about the man, the more I’m fascinated by the real Hofmann behind all the headlines. It may sound weird to hear that I love a man who is a murderer, but Joseph Smith murdered at least two people and millions of people claim to love and worship him as the prophet, so maybe I’m not the weirdest one here. I just sincerely believe that Hofmann has been characterized as being nothing more than a monster and I believe that does a disservice to him and to anybody that seeks to learn about him.
So if by some stroke of luck this podcast makes it to the ears of Mark Hofmann, I briefly want to speak directly to him.
Mark, please help us understand you. During the height of your days, you made amazing advancements into uncovering what goes on behind the closed doors of the church leadership. You showed to an entire generation that the church would be willing to buy challenging historical documents to suppress them. You laid bare how ill-equipped the church is to deal with its convoluted past and foundation by a mad-man. No single person has done a greater service to the world of Mormon scholarship as you. You must be commended for your effort and the amount of thought you poured into orchestrating such a massive PR nightmare for the church.
Even the amount of money you stole can be ignored when we take it on balance with the level you exposed the church. I mean, if we’re talking sheer numbers here, the church makes off with $7 bn a year by conning people, you only managed $1.3 mn in 6 years’ time, I think we can forget about who really deserves to be in jail when we look at the numbers alone.
But Mark, you also made a string of very rash decisions, and I don’t think it’s fair to label you as a simple murderer for a week of lapsed judgement. You are obviously much more complicated than any one word names can describe, and apparently much more complicated than 9 hours of podcasting can represent.
I know that you’ve refused visits from anybody other than family members and your attorney, and I can’t possibly begin to comprehend the reasoning behind this decision; but I hope you will begin to reconsider opening up that line of thought once again. You may think that your story has come to an end with a lifetime prison sentence, but there is so much legacy attached to the name Mark Hofmann, and people want to know your story for real. People want to learn about the real Mark, not the Hofmann forger-bomber from back in the 80’s.
Please Mark, meet with some people that would be able to tell your real story. Please give an interview. This vow of silence has gone for 30 years, and it would be a tragedy to lose this story to your death that will likely happen within the next 30 years. You’re the only person that can properly tell your story. In 80 pages of notes, I haven’t actually gotten any closer to who the real Hofmann is, that’s something that can only be attained through speaking with you directly, Mark. We can sit here in our internet community and try to envision who you really are, but until you actually appear on record and a real documentary can be made about you, we’re all left in the dark, sifting through newspaper clippings of your legacy and trying to piece the real Hofmann together.
What you did cannot be changed. The name of Mark Hofmann will never be unshackled from the label of murderer, but what you can do is offer everybody else the chance to understand you and your mission. You must have had an agenda to take down the church, or at very least make it look foolish, but that mission gets lost in the noise of people labeling you as an extortionist and murderer. I think you accomplished what you initially set out to do, but people don’t look at your exposing the church and say that’s the end of the story, they always end the story with bombs going off and you nearly killing yourself.
There’s so much information, that only you have, that would be so useful to the world. Did you manufacture the Oliver Cowdery history and leak to the press that it exists? What actually happened with the McLellin collection, and why was it found in the church archives while you were going to trial? What was your actual plan with the McLellin collection? How much money did the church really give you and for how many documents? We know about the Salamander Letter and the Joseph Smith III blessing, but what else did you sell to the church that didn’t get any press that was just as challenging to their history? What else is the church hiding? Did the church really have nothing to do with your plea bargain, or was there motivation for them to not go to court over this whole ordeal and they forced the plea deal?
These are all questions that I want to ask you directly, Mark. And the best part is, you could answer them however you want, and it’s up to the church and the Mormon historical community to deal with your answers, truthful or not. There could be a new resurgence of Hofmann altering Mormon history, because anything you said in an interview would have to be answered by the church. If you gave us proof that the Oliver Cowdery history existed, even if it was your work, the church would stumble all over themselves with first denying it, then accepting it and putting out a PR friendly press release that the history really exists. There could be a whole new era of Hofmann forgeries coming out of the church vaults, making the church and its leadership look foolish all over again in the internet age.
Mark, if your initial mission was to show the world that the church will go to extreme lengths to hide their history, you’ve already won. And now I’m offering a chance to do it all over again. Please reconsider doing an interview with somebody, and please allow your thoughts to meander to the possibility of interviewing for a documentary. We can’t lose your story just because you’re locked in a cage for the rest of your life. Please give us a legacy we can love, instead of being just that guy that made the Salamander letter that ended up killing some people. We deserve the truth, and more importantly, you deserve a proper legacy. Do it for your family, and most importantly, do it for you. Help us answer that all important question with which we opened up this episode, Why?...
Until that day comes that Mark Hofmann opens himself up to the world for a real interview, and that day may never come, I suppose this is the best we can get. And my only final thought is, thank you Mark. Thank you for what you did.
I’ll give you a second to guess how much was actually Hofmann’s words. Take a guess….. got it? Well, you’re wrong. All of it…. The correct answer is EVERY SINGLE LINE.
Copyright Ground Gnomes LLC subject to fair use. Citation example: "Naked Mormonism Podcast (or NMP), Ep #, original air date 09/16/2016"