The Mark Hofmann Forgery-Murder Case of the 1980s

March 8, 2021

In April 1980, the Church was celebrating its 150th anniversary, and Church history was on many people’s minds. On the seventeenth of that month, an undergraduate student named Mark Hofmann walked into the library at Utah State University with a yellowed document in his hands. He showed it to Jeff Simmonds, curator of special collections and archives. The document was sealed along one edge with a black adhesive that kept it bound to the pages of an old Bible. Hofmann said he bought the Bible from a relative of Joseph Smith and discovered the document inside. Not wanting to tear it, he brought it to an expert for unfolding.

When they finally opened the manuscript, it appeared to be the document Martin Harris showed to Professor Charles Anthon containing characters that Joseph had copied from the golden plates. The remarkable discovery was the first of many made over the next five years by the young man, who decided to drop out of college and devote his life to selling documents.

Then in October 1985, three pipe bombs went off in the Salt Lake Valley, the first killing a businessman named Steve Christensen, the second killing Kathleen Sheets, the wife of Christensen’s business partner, and the third injuring Hofmann, who survived the blast. The subsequent investigation by federal, state, and local law enforcement officers uncovered a complex web of deceit, forgery, fraud, and murder.

For a simple description of the case with links to Church magazine articles about it, click here.

For an understanding of Church leaders’ role in the case, read Victims: The LDS Church and the Mark Hofmann Case.

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Author: Richard E. Turley Jr.

Richard E. Turley Jr. served for twenty-two years as managing director of the Historical Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and eight years as Assistant Church Historian and Recorder. He also served as managing director of the Family History, Public Affairs, and Church Communication Departments.

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