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Mark Hofmann

Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 197:

“… the gift of the discerning of spirits is poured out upon presiding officials in God’s kingdom; they have it given to them to discern all gifts and all spirits, lest any come among the Saints and practice deception…. There is no perfect operation of the power of discernment without revelation. Thereby even ‘the thoughts and intents of the heart’ are made known…. Where the Saints are concerned… they Lord expects them to discern, not only between righteous and the wicked, but between false and true philosophies, educational theories, sciences, political concepts, and social schemes.”

Mark Hofmann is an interesting figure in the history of the church. He was raised Mormon, served a mission, and lived in Utah most of his life. In the early 1980’s, Hofmann created and sold a number of forged documents to the church, often dealing directly with President Gordon B. Hinckley.

Anthon Transcript

In 1980, Hofmann claimed to have found the Anthon Transcript, the note from Joseph Smith’s scribe Martin Harris to professor Charles Anthon in 1828. The church announced the discovery and purchased the note for more than $20,000. Hugh Nibley proclaimed it, “…As good a test as we’ll ever get of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.”

Joseph Smith III Blessing

In 1981, Hofmann presented to the church a document which provided evidence that Joseph Smith had designated his son, rather than Brigham Young, as the next leader of the church. When the church balked at the price, Hofmann took it to the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which would have provided them with a document supporting their claims that Joseph’s son was the next leader of the church. A bidding war ensued and the LDS church purchased the document, again for over $20,000. After the purchase, Hofmann went public with it and the LDS church had to confirm the discovery, eventually donating the document to the RLDS church. The assumption was that the LDS church had won the bidding war to hide the document away, but the publicity forced them to bring it out in the open.

The Josiah Stowell Letter

In 1983, Hofmann bypassed the church Historical Department and dealt directly with President Gordon B. Hinckley. He sold to the church a document that discussed Joseph Smith treasure hunting and practicing black magic for years after the First Vision. After making the purchase privately for $15,000, the church denied its existence until Hofmann leaked to the press that he had sold it to them.

Salamander Letter

In 1984, Hofmann claimed to have found a letter detailing the recovery of the gold plates that presented a very different version than the one the church officially endorsed. The church also purchased this item from Hofmann.

Forgeries uncovered

The church has so far admitted to purchasing at least ten forgeries from Mark Hofmann. In 1985, Hofmann ended up killing two people with two separate bombs in order to protect his web of deceit, but was ultimately undone.

President Gordon B. Hinckley’s response:

“I frankly admit that Hofmann tricked us….We bought those documents only after the assurance that they were genuine…..I am not ashamed to admit that we were victimized. It is not the first time the Church has found itself in such a position. Joseph Smith was victimized again and again. The Savior was victimized. I am sorry to say that sometimes it happens.”

The Hofmann forgeries were a large black eye to the church in the 1980’s. Not only was the very top leadership of the church fooled, but the church itself was often dishonest throughout the whole affair. It has never revealed how much money, which was assumed to be tithing money, was spent in total on the forgeries.

But perhaps the most ugly part of the whole affair is that the church clearly paid for documents that it wanted to cover up and hide from the public eye.

Next Step: Book of Mormon Problems

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