The Mormon Forgery Murders

Reviews by Evelyn C. Leeper

Copyright 2013 Evelyn C. Leeper.


Mark Hofmann was a very talented forger who created several forgeries that were purportedly important documents relating to the history. His crimes led to their own twisted path with Hofmann building bombs to kill two people who stood in his way.

"The Mormon Murders" (a.k.a. "The Mormon Forgery Murders"), or rather the story leading up to them, have fascinated people since Mark Hofmann committed them on October 15, 1985. At least four books have been written about the story:

SALAMANDER: THE STORY OF THE MORMON FORGERY MURDERS by Linda Sillitoe and Allen Roberts:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 10/04/2013]

SALAMANDER: THE STORY OF THE MORMON FORGERY MURDERS by Linda Sillitoe and Allen Roberts (ISBN 978-1-560-85200-1, 1988) is an incredibly detailed account of the forgeries and murders, beginning with the grandparents of all the main characters and going through all the investigators involved and the leads they followed. Given that the Salt Lake City Police Department; the Salt Lake County Attorney's Office; the FBI; the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; and various LDS offices, universities, and antiquarian and forensic specialists were involved, it is very complicated. There is a very thorough index by name, but I really wish there had been a cast of characters (e.g., "Gerry D'Elia: arson prosecutor, Salt Lake County Attorney's Office").

It is a bit confusing in its timeline as well, starting with the murders for the first third of the book, then flashing back for the middle third of the book to cover the backgrounds of Hofmann and others, and the forgeries (all told as seen by everyone but Hofmann--the authors never write from his point of view). Then it jumps back to the prosecution of the case for the last third of the book.

To order Salamander from amazon.com, click here.


A GATHERING OF SAINTS: A TRUE STORY OF MONEY, MURDER AND DECEIT by Robert Lindsey:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 10/04/2013]

A GATHERING OF SAINTS: A TRUE STORY OF MONEY, MURDER AND DECEIT by Robert Lindsey (ISBN 978-0-671-65112-1, 2002) also goes into detail about the backgrounds of the main characters, etc., but also gives a lot of Mormon history as well. Because it gives so much detail, it has the same problems the Sillitoe and Roberts book has: it is almost impossible to keep track of everyone with a diagram. However, it does tell the main story in chronological order (only the Mormon history parts are told out of sequence--they are inserted when the documents pertaining to them make their first appearance).

To order A Gathering of Saints from amazon.com, click here.


VICTIMS: THE LDS CHURCH AND THE MARK HOFMANN CASE by Richard Turley:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 10/04/2013]

VICTIMS: THE LDS CHURCH AND THE MARK HOFMANN CASE by Richard Turley (ISBN 978-0-252-01885-5) is reportedly the most scholarly of the group, having been written by the Managing Director of the LDS Church Historical Department. For example, it includes a fifty- page list of all the documents Hofmann dealt in and with in his career. And it has an index, something that Worrall's book (for example) lacks. Turley gives the fullest background of official Church history of the group as well, making it in that regard perhaps the best one to start with if the forgeries you are most interested in are those of supposed Church documents. [I have not yet had a chance to see this one.]

To order Victims from amazon.com, click here.


THE POET AND THE MURDERER: A TRUE STORY OF LITERARY CRIME AND THE ART OF FORGERY by Simon Worrall:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 10/04/2013]

THE POET AND THE MURDERER: A TRUE STORY OF LITERARY CRIME AND THE ART OF FORGERY by Simon Worrall (ISBN 978-0-525-94596-3) draws on the three earlier books but also focuses on a less well-covered aspect of the whole story, when Hofmann not just forges but actually composes a poem purportedly written by Emily Dickinson. At least a third of the book is spent describing the creation and subsequent history of this poem. Worrall also draws conclusions somewhat at divergence with the official ones.

One reason that the other books do not cover this document is that it was not publicly auctioned until 1997, almost a decade after two of the other books were published, and five years after the third. The poem had made the rounds earlier, but pretty much below the radar, and its presence in an auction at Sotheby's clearly added another chapter to the already twisted tale.

Alas, Worrall has no index.

To order The Poet and the Murderer from amazon.com, click here.


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