NEW documentary series Murder Among The Mormons investigates three bombings in 1985 which sent shockwaves through Salt Lake City, and delves into the famous Salamander Letter.
The letter was supposedly written by Martin Harris, an important figure in early Mormon history, and gave a very different version of the religion’s roots from the church’s version of events.
The documents Mark was carrying were found to be fraudulent[/caption]
What is the Salamander Letter?
The Salamander Letter was a document which presented a controversial view of the Latter Day Saint movement.
It presented a view of Latter Day Saint founder Joseph Smith’s life that was at odds with the accepted recorded history of the church that Smith established.
It was “discovered” in 1983 by Mark Hofmann, who was raised in a devout Mormon family in Salt Lake City, where the church has its headquarters.
The letter was supposedly written by Martin Harris, an important figure in early Mormon history.
It was bought by financial consultant Steven Christensen from Hofmann for $40,000 (£28,700), who then donated the letter to the church.
It was originally authenticated by experienced document examiners.
The car bomb was supposedly intended to kill Mark Hoffmann[/caption]
But the letter was in a fact a fake created by Hofmann who set off a series of bombs in Salt Lake City in an attempt to cover up his forgery.
Hoffmann was caught up in one of the blasts as he carried a series of documents that were thought to contain “explosive and embarrassing revelations about the Mormon church”, and supposedly included the letter.
As police investigated the case, Mark’s forgeries came to light as they uncovered his plot to kill himself after orchestrating two prior bombings.
One in an office block saw the murder of fellow document dealer and financial consultant Steven Christensen.
The other killed the wife of one of Christensen’s former business associates Kathy Sheets outside her holiday home.
Hofmann was arrested in January 1986 and after initially protesting his innocence, he pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder, one count of theft by deception for forging and one count of fraud.
Hofmann’s car blew up in the third explosion. Inside, was a collection of supposed early Mormon documents[/caption]
Why was the Salamander Letter so controversial?
According to the church’s history, Smith was visited by an angel who gave him gold plates, which he translated into the Book of Mormon
But in the Salamander Letter, the author claimed Joseph Smith had told him he was led to the gold plates, not by an angel, but by a white salamander.
Hofmann said that he originally intended to use a common toad but changed it to a magical white salamander as he “wanted to spice it up”.
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Hofmann claimed his document was Smith’s very first translation of the plates.
He claimed he and his wife, Dorie, found it stuck in between pages of an old family Bible.
This controversial letter threatened to destroy the very foundations of the church, and reportedly led to a number of people leaving the institution.