It’s been just over 20 years now since Mark Hofmann, the returned Mormon Missionary, blew up two innocent people with pipe bombs, and was plea bargained out instead of going to trial.
Why wouldn’t a deranged bomber with 26 felony counts against him and the blood of two innocent people on his hands go to trial? It’s really quite simple if you’ve ever lived in Utah and you understand the power of the Mormon Church over that state. Placing Mark Hofmann on trial would have meant calling Mormon Prophets and Apostles to the witness stand. These Mormon General Authorities had been utterly fooled by him into purchasing hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars worth of forged documents about early Mormon history. Mark Hofmann was born and raised a Mormon and went on his two year mission to southwest England; returning in 1976. Married in 1979, outwardly Mark appeared to be a good Mormon young man. Mark had a sinister side though, and he found an easy target in the Mormon Church. Since its beginning, the early foundations of Mormon Church history have been shrouded in claims of fraud, deceit, folklore magic, and mysticism. Also, from its beginning, the Mormon Church has been involved in trying to distance itself from those claims and provide a legitimate explanation of its establishment. Into this fertile ground of protecting the history of the Mormon Church at all costs, came Mark Hofmann with a plan to make money and make the Mormon Church look foolish—he was successful on both counts!!
The Anthon Transcript
Mark’s first big score was the “Anthon Transcript.” Martin Harris, the financier of the first printing of the Book of Mormon in 1830, was skeptical at putting up the money without some proof of the Golden Bible. Joseph Smith would only let him heft the box that supposedly contained the “Golden Plates” from which the Book of Mormon was to be translated, but this wasn’t enough to satisfy the wealthy farmer; he wanted more. So, Joseph supposedly copied characters from the gold plates and Harris took them to New York City to have the scholars of the day validate the characters. The characters were not of any known language Smith explained to Harris, they are an unknown language called “Reformed Egyptian.”
Harris eventually found his way to Charles Anthon, a professor of Greek and Latin at Columbia College. No one knows for sure what took place at this meeting except Harris came back declaring Professor Anthon had identified the characters as Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyriac, and Arabic. When Professor Anthon later heard that the Mormons were saying he had validated the characters he wrote a blistering denial.
The “Anthon Transcript” which Martin Harris had taken on his journey was believed lost.
Picture individuals from left to right: Mark Hofmann, 1st Counselor N. Eldon Tanner, President Spencer W. Kimball, 2nd Counselor Marion G. Romney, Apostle Boyd K. Packer and Apostle Gordon B. Hinckley
In the above picture, Mark Hofmann is pictured with the most senior Mormon Church leaders studying his recently discovered (forged) “Anthon Transcript.” This incredible find (totally bogus) put Mark Hofmann on the inside tract with the front office of the Mormon Church. Mark totally fooled every senior Mormon Church leader and walked away with a quick $20,000 for his deceptive efforts; a handsome sum in 1980. Not only did Hofmann fool the Mormon Church leaders of 1980, in the picture above he is seen with the current Mormon Prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, and the third in line to be Prophet, Apostle Boyd K. Packer.
The Salamander Letter
Mark’s next big scam was the “Salamander Letter.” The whole “translation” of the Book of Mormon is steeped in mysticism and fraud. Knowing this, Mark Hofmann dreamed up a letter that played perfectly off of those claims. His letter “…sounded more like a Grimms’ fairy tale than a Sunday-school lesson: kettles of money guarded by spirits, seer stones, enchanted spells, magic “spectacles,” ghostly visitations. And instead of a benevolent angel, a cantankerous and tricky “old spirit” who transforms himself into a white salamander!” (The Mormon Murders, pg. 127)
In order to avoid directly involving the Mormon Church in the procurement of this document (too much publicity), Hofmann worked a deal with a “faithful member,” a wealthy businessman named Steve Christensen, to purchase the document to prevent it from getting into the “wrong hands.” The idea was to allow time to cool off the interest in the document and then Steve could donate it to the Church and thus ensure a prominent place for himself and his family in the Celestial Kingdom in the next life!
The McLellin Collection
This is the scam that brought Mark Hofmann down. “William E. McLellin was an early Apostle and close associate of Joseph Smith’s who had left the Church in 1836 to become one of its bitterest critics. It had long been rumored that McLellin, who kept the minutes at early meetings of the Twelve, had taken with him a pirate’s chest full of papers, letters, and journals, all of it incriminating, with which to destroy the Church. But neither the Collection itself, nor any part of it, had ever surfaced. Until now.” (The Mormon Murders, pg. 164)
This scam was so blatant that Mark Hofmann never even forged the documents. He set a price tag of $185,000 and was working several different people, and the Mormon Church, in the scam.
Hofmann was living the high life at this time. He was flying back and forth to New York City and other places, supposedly searching for antique documents, and spending money like there was no end to its source. He was attempting to purchase a very expensive house in one of the most affluent neighborhoods in Salt Lake City and he was beginning to run tight on cash.
He went to the Mormon Church Headquarters and told them he needed the $185,000 to acquire the McLellin Collection. Hugh Pinnock, a senior member of the Quorum of Seventy (a Mormon General Authority, just under the position of Apostle), made a phone call to First Interstate Bank and arranged the loan; Mark simply had to go pick up the check.
Hofmann had also borrowed money from several other Mormons with promises of providing the McLellin Collection. Playing both ends against the middle, time was running out. Mark was under a great deal of pressure to meet all of these various obligations. Steve Christensen (the purchaser of the Salamander Letter) had entered the picture again as Mark was delinquent on his $185,000 loan arranged by the Church. “The Brethren” had elicited Steve’s help to complete the McLellin transaction through a wealthy Mormon Mission President in Nova Scotia, Canada. In his sordid mind, Hofmann believed he could release the pressure cooker he had placed himself in by blowing up Steve and then blowing up one of his business associates; therefore, diverting the investigation away from document dealing and focusing it on a possible bad business deal motive for the bombings.
On Tuesday October 15, 1985, two bombs took the lives of Steve Christensen and Kathy Sheets. Both pipe bombs, the one set for Steve Christensen was especially brutal, being filled with nails meant to absolutely shred its victim. Gary Sheets was the intended target for bomb number two; however, his wife, Kathy, found the bomb outside their home and she became the victim of its deadly power.
No one is sure who was the intended victim of bomb number three. Mark Hofmann was in downtown Salt Lake City in the process of delivering the bomb, when it went off prematurely and he became its victim. Severely injured, but not killed, Mark was initially thought to be an innocent victim; however, the investigation clearly showed he was the bomber.
Lying for the Lord
Hugh Pinnock, a Mormon General Authority as I’ve previously noted, arranged a $185,000 loan at First Interstate Bank for Mark Hofmann to initially purchase the McLellin Collection. The day after the third bomb explosion that injured Mark Hofmann, Elder Pinnock was interviewed about the crimes:
“…Police Detective Don Bell interviewed him at 1:12 in the afternoon on October 17, the day after the bomb exploded in Hofmann’s car.“Elder Pinnock, this is the deal,” Bell began, notebook in hand. “This is a homicide investigation. Do you know Mr. Hofmann?”Pinnock paused and reflected a moment. “No I don’t believe I do.””
(The Mormon Murders, pp. 246-247)
This statement by this Mormon General Authority was an absolute lie! When KSL-TV accurately reported that the Mormon Church was involved in arranging document deals and illegal loans, the Mormon Church went ballistic. “The Church is upset because we said they helped arrange a loan. Well ,they did! They say it was an individual, not the Church, but that’s baloney. It may have been an individual who placed the call, but he was a Church official, sitting in his Church office, on Church time, using a Church phone, and he did it for the…benefit of the Church. Nobody else wanted that McLellin Collection except the Church. And the Nova Scotia mission president doesn’t collect documents. He was just a big-bucks guy who said ‘If you need help, I’ll help you out.’ If the Church says they weren’t helping arrange any buyers for anything, how do you explain the fact that the Church volunteered to get an armored car to go down to Texas and pick the Collection up?” (The Mormon Murders, pg. 389)
When current Mormon Prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, was interviewed by County Prosecuting Attorneys Bob Stott and David Biggs about his multiple dealings with Mark Hofmann, he clearly lied: “Stott and Biggs shifted uneasily in their chairs. Mike George, the investigator from the county attorney’s office who had accompanied Ken Farnsworth on the last interview with Hinckley almost four months before, marveled at how, with time in between to recollect those meetings he still couldn’t remember a thing.
“Was he ever in your office?” Stott asked. “Probably,” said Hinckley.
“Probably!” thought Biggs. Now, he was even forgetting what he had admitted in the press conference.” (The Mormon Murders, pp. 355356) When comparing the notes of the investigators of this crime, there is no doubt that Gordon B. Hinckley, now the current Mormon Prophet was lying to them.
In Utah - You Don’t Embarrass the Mormon Church!!
The case against Mark Hofmann was overwhelming. There was no question he would be convicted of 1st Degree Murder and receive the death penalty for his despicable crimes; yet he only received a mere slap on the wrist for murdering two innocent people by blowing them up with pipe bombs and, not only defrauding the Mormon Church out of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, but other people as well.
“It was clear to everyone by now that Bob Stott (prosecuting attorney) was determined to avoid a trial no matter what. Said one policeman when the news of the bargain spread though the department like the smell of a gas leak, “Even if we had a confession, Stott would have given Yengich (Hofmann’s attorney) anything he wanted.”
Later, when a Los Angeles Times reporter flew to Salt Lake City to cover the breaking plea-bargain story, he told Dawn Tracy [Salt Lake Tribune Reporter] that the most surprising aspect of the entire case was the attitude of the prosecution. “The typical prosecutor,” the reporter said, “goes out and gets the bad guys. He goes out and stirs things up. Here, they’re so nice and cooperative. What a nice plea bargain. In any other state, you’d see this thing go on trial, because that’s how prosecutors’ reputations are made. Going to trial and getting bad guys, big splashes, lots of exposure. Here you have a nice plea bargain.
“‘Hey,’ said Tracy, ‘You don’t rise in this state embarrassing the Mormon Church or making them look bad.’” (The Mormon Murders, pp. 420-421). Who cares about truth? Who cares about justice—in Mormonism you must protect the “Myth” at all costs!!
The Mormon Prosecutor, Bob Stott, would not execute the responsibilities of his office, because in Mormonism, the attitude toward truth is “faith before facts!” (The Mormon Murders, pg. 439)
Article by Rocky and Helen Hulse, Issue No. 24, May 2007, “The Midwest Expositor” publication of Mormon Missions Midwest Outreach - www.mormonoutreach.org.
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