Admits He Killed Two People and Forged Mormon Documents

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Chilling Confession - Effect On ULM - New On 116 Pages - Blood Atonement - Nightmare Ends at the Supreme Court - Jerald Tanner's Testimony - Supporting 100 Children - Obsession With Lucifer? - In the Mail

    On the morning of January 23, 1987, word began to circulate in Salt Lake City that a major development had occurred in the Mark Hofmann case. That evening the Deseret News reported:

"A grim-faced Hofmann entered the courtroom about 11 a.m. Friday and with little fanfare entered guilty pleas to two counts of second-degree murder in the slayings of Steven F. Christensen and Kathleen Webb Sheets. Hofmann had been charged with first-degree murder, which carries a possible death sentence, but in the plea agreement prosecutors agreed to allow Hofmann to plead guilty to lesser charges.

"He also pleaded guilty to one count of communications fraud and one count of theft by deception involving the Martin Harris letter, better known as the White Salamander letter, and the William McLellin collection, a collection of documents Hofmann sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars but in actuality never possessed.

"Tension and emotion flooded the courtroom as Hofmann stood to answer each of the judge's questions.

" 'Did you intentionally and knowingly cause the death of Steve Christensen?' questioned Rigtrup. " 'Yes,' replied Hofmann in a soft, quiet voice.

" 'Did you intentionally and knowing[ly] cause the death of Kathleen Sheets?' the judge intoned. " 'Yes,' the defendant replied.

" 'Do you desire to enter these guilty pleas because you are in fact guilty?' the judge asked.

" 'Yes,' Hofmann replied.

"Hofmann made similar admissions of guilt involving the documents transactions." (Deseret News, Jan. 23,1987)

    Judge Rigtrup sentenced Mark Hofmann to "one prison term of 5 years to life and three other prison terms of 1-to-15 years for his role in the bombing deaths of two people and the forgeries and frauds that led to those murders." (Ibid) The judge pointed out the "indiscriminate nature" of the murders. (Mrs. Sheets was killed instead of her husband and a woman in the Judge Building almost picked up the 'booby-trapped shrapnel bomb" which killed Steven Christensen.) Rigtrup then said to Mr. Hofmann: "...I will recommend that you spend the rest of your natural life at the Utah State Prison." (Salt Lake Tribune, Jan. 24, 1987) After the hearing Mark Hofmann was handcuffed and transported to prison.

    In making a plea bargain agreement Mr. Hofmann escaped the possibility of the death penalty and was assured that the federal government would drop its charge of possession of an unregistered machine gun. In addition, New York authorities promised that they would not charge him with selling a forged copy of the Oath of a Freeman in their state.


    Mark Hofmann had kept absolutely silent concerning the crimes up to the time the plea bargain was being worked out. Jan Thompson reported that at that time he opened up and confessed how he had committed the crimes:

"An interview with Mark W. Hofmann was the strangest and most fascinating experience Robert Stott has had as a criminal prosecutor....

" 'It was chilling to have Hofmann look me in the eye and say he killed Steve Christensen and Kathleen Sheets,' Stott said in a Deseret News interview Saturday.

"As Hofmann disclosed the details of how he made and delivered the bombs and how he manufactured the salamander letter and persuaded buyers to invest in the so-called McLellin Collection, Stott compared the information with the state's evidence. Hofmann's version of his crime matched the theories and evidence of prosecutors.

" 'It was disconcerting to realize that this man I was sitting across from had committed these terrible crimes in such a unique fashion. He was brilliant in forging documents and in manufacturing the bombs.'

"Hofmann enjoyed sharing the details of his fraud scheme, Stott said.

" 'When he talks, he doesn't act like a madman or say nasty things, so it's easy to forget that he's a violent killer and to treat him as a next-door neighbor. I had to remind myself that, foremost, Hofmann is a killer, and secondly, he is a swindler and a cheat.

" 'That's what makes him so dangerous. When he's triggered, he can be devastating.'

"Hofmann showed little emotion during the interview." (Deseret News, January 25,1987)

    As part of the plea bargain agreement Mr. Hofmann is supposed to meet with investigators and reveal the details concerning how he forged the other documents. The prosecutors maintain that they will make this material available to the public in a few weeks. We hope to have more on this in the next issue of the Messenger.

    As we sit back and reflect about the Salamandergate scandal, we just feel fortunate to be alive. Brent Ashworth, the Mormon bishop who claimed Mark Hofmann sold him $225,100 worth of forged documents, has been quoted as making this comment about Hofmann: " 'When I called him a liar or if I questioned one of the documents, he'd lose his temper. Nothing else seemed to make him mad.' " (Salt Lake Tribune, January 25,1987)

    Utah Lighthouse Ministry had printed a great deal of material which questioned both Mark Hofmann's documents and his honesty. Beginning as early as 1984, we suggested that the Salamander letter might be "a forgery" and noted that if this were the case, "it needs to be exposed" (Salt Lake City Messenger, March 1984). By August 1984 we had printed the first part of the booklet, The Money-Digging Letters, in which Mark Hofmann's major discoveries were questioned and his document dealings condemned. One of the editors of this paper (Sandra Tanner) distributed copies of this material at the Sunstone Theological Symposium. Mr. Hofmann attended this symposium and was grieved when he learned that his integrity was being questioned. The day following the publication of this material (August 23, 1984) Mark Hofmann came to our home and had a long talk with Sandra. He seemed very distressed and hurt that we, of all people, would question his discoveries. He had expected that opposition might come from those in the Mormon Church, but he was amazed that Utah Lighthouse Ministry had taken a position which was critical of him. Mr. Hofmann seemed to be almost at the point of tears as he pled his case as to why we should trust him.

    We, of course, knew that it was risky business to publicly question any forger, but we had no idea he was so devious that he would plant a bomb that killed Kathleen Sheets merely as a diversion to cover up his involvement in the murder of Steven Christensen. In retrospect, it appears that we were very fortunate that Mr. Hofmann arrived at our house armed only with arguments as to why we should trust his documents rather than a pipe bomb surrounded with nails.

    Both the Los Angeles Times and the Deseret News printed the fact that we were questioning the Salamander letter. Mr. Hofmann grew concerned about our investigation and told an associate he was planning another visit to our house to try to convert us to the Salamander letter. We wonder now if we would have been so bold as to call for the public to send any information to us that they had concerning Mr. Hofmann's activities if we had known that he was capable of murdering to preserve his document forging operation (see Salt Lake City Messenger, June 1985, p. 16 and August 1985, p. 8). When we located him at the August 1985 Sunstone Symposium and began to ask probing questions about the Salamander letter, he had a very sad and fearful expression on his face. It almost seemed as if he were trying to say, "Please believe what I am telling you."

    At first the Mormon bishop Steven Christensen trusted Mark Hofmann implicitly. Christensen, of course, bought the Salamander letter, and when we published extracts from it in the March 1984 issue of the Messenger and indicated the possibility of plagiarism from Mormonism Unvailed and Joseph Knight's account of the discovery of the Book of Mormon plates, he rejected our research. He even tried to testify in federal court that we had violated his manuscript rights by printing extracts from the letter. Although we were all in the courtroom waiting for Mr. Christensen to step to the witness stand, the judge made it clear that such testimony was irrelevant to the case at hand and Steven Christensen was not allowed the opportunity of testifying against us (see our book Tracking The White Salamander, page 16). Mr. Christensen continued to believe in Mark Hofmann and his stories concerning the discovery of important Mormon documents for more than a year. Although he eventually came to the conclusion that Hofmann was a "crook," by that time it was too late. When Mr. Christensen threatened to expose Mark Hofmann's fraudulent dealings with regard to the McLellin collection, Hofmann retaliated by killing him. It seems like a strange twist of fate that the man who opposed the material we presented against the Salamander letter and even tried to testify against us in court would be the very one who later tried to blow the whistle on Mark Hofmann and ended up losing his life. It may very well be that the thing that saved our lives was simply that few people believed what we were publishing. Mr. Hofmann apparently felt that Christensen, who was a Mormon bishop with a great deal of influence, could destroy his Mormon document empire, and therefore he found it necessary to eliminate him. In any case, we feel grateful to God that we are alive and wish to thank those who have been praying for our safety. While we have always thought there was a possibility of being assassinated by someone opposed to our work, we never even considered that a well-mannered man like Mark Hofmann, who professed to be friendly to our work, would turn out to be a cold-blooded killer who would stop at nothing to shut the mouth of his opponents. We just thank God that he was not triggered by the exposes we published concerning his document deals.

    Although most people felt that Mark Hofmann was a good Mormon, the evidence that is coming forth now seems to show that although he was a returned missionary, married in the temple and active in the church, he was not a believer. In fact, his close friend Shannon Flynn now says that he was an atheist:

" 'Hofmann was an atheist. He did not believe in God,' Flynn said. 'If there is no God, a person obviously can't believe there is a Christ or Christianity-no life after death.'...

"Flynn said he knows a lot of atheists who don't go out and kill people, but this should give people a clue to why Hofmann did the things he did.

" 'Some people wouldn't do anything wrong because they think God would punish them. He obviously didn't worry about the punishment,' the young man said. 'While I don't think that is an excuse for what he did, I think psychologists who talk with him will see he is working from an entirely different frame of reference from most of us.' " (Deseret News, January 30,1987)

    Mark Hofmann's associate Brent Metcalfe has also confirmed Hofmann's atheistic views and even a member of his family has written: "I think he is an athiest [sic]." His church activities appear to have been used as a cover for his phony document business. Recently it has been noted that Mark Hofmann was able to fool almost everyone with his dual life. Even his best friends now feel that they were used to further his selfish desire for wealth and fame. While Mr. Hofmann was once honored by Mormon and non-Mormon historians, he is now considered a villain-perhaps one of the greatest con men of the 20th century. On February 11, 1987, the New York Times published an article by Robert Lindsey which contained the following:

"According to criminal investigators here and court documents, the 32-year-old Mr. Hofmann fooled not only senior members of the Mormon hierarchy but also scores of document collectors around the country and virtually all of the nation's top forgery experts.

" 'Mark Hofmann was unquestionably the most skilled forger this country has ever seen,' said Charles Hamilton, a New York document dealer who is widely regarded as the nation's preeminent detector of forged documents....

"Mr. Hamilton said Mr. Hofmann 'perpetrated by far the largest monetary frauds through forgery that this country has ever had,' adding, 'He fooled me-he fooled everybody.'...

"Among those fooled by Mr. Hofmann's documents were hundreds of specialists in Mormon history....

"Investigators have said that Mr. Hofmann was as successful in selling forged documents in New York as he was in Utah. They say he may have collected more than $2 million selling rare documents purportedly written or signed by such literary and historical figures as Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Jack London and Jim Bridger,...

"After examining the white salamander letter, experts working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation said they could find no evidence that it was forged, a conclusion also made by Kenneth W. Rendell, a Newton, Mass., document dealer who is often ranked with Mr. Hamilton among the nation's leading detectors of forged documents....

"Concluding his assessment of Mr. Hofmann, Mr. Hamilton said: 'In a way, two murders are pedestrian crimes. But to fool me, to fool Ken Rendell, to fool the whole world, requires not only forgery but a packaging of himself. He packaged himself as a bespectacled, sweet, unobtrusive, hard working, highly intelligent scholar dedicated to the uncovering of history. Now we know he's more than he appeared to be.' "

    While we certainly cannot defend Mark Hofmann's actions, we must remember that he is still a human being who desperately needs God in his life. If the Lord could change a man like Paul, He could certainly work in Mr. Hofmann's life. We would urge our readers to pray for both him and his family, and those who would like to send him a word of encouragement can reach him at the Utah State Prison, PO Box 250, Draper, Utah 84020.


    Mark Hofmann's admission of guilt will undoubtedly have a far-reaching effect on Utah Lighthouse Ministry. Many people have tenaciously held to the theory that the Salamander letter is authentic and that Hofmann was being framed on the murders. Some people apparently felt that we had gone off the deep end or had sold out to the Mormon Church. Although our reasons for believing Hofmann was probably guilty were clearly laid out in our book Tracking The White Salamander, only a limited number of people were interested in reading it. When the story broke concerning Mr. Hofmann's plea bargain, however, the situation was entirely reversed. A local radio station asked us to come on the air and discuss the situation, and we were able to publish a large advertisement for the book in both of the newspapers in Salt Lake City. After that we were flooded with orders for Tracking The White Salamander. It soon became obvious that among the people coming to our home or calling on the phone there were quite a number of devout Mormons who were interested in learning more about the Salamandergate scandal. We feel that it is a great privilege to be able to make contact with these people and believe that much good will come from it. On February 2, we received a letter which contained the following:

"I am on your mailing list and have thoroughly been fascinated by your latest issues. You have been very accurate in describing what has happened. This helps me when I discuss your extensive research with the Mormons whom I work with. The accurateness of your latest newsletters give you a lot of creditability [sic]. It has opened the door for me to discuss other things with my Mormon co-workers. I am greatly anticipating your book..."

    One of our critics once argued that we believe "the end (destroying Mormonism) justifies the means (publishing anything which they believe could prove damaging to Mormonism)." Our work regarding Mark Hofmann's documents certainly belies this accusation, and we feel that many Mormons will eventually come to realize that we are only seeking for the truth. Actually, this has always been our stand. As early as 1967 we published a pamphlet exposing the purported Oliver Cowdery Defence and the "Confessions of Oliver Overstreet" as forgeries. In the Introduction to this pamphlet we wrote: "One of the most serious problems facing a student of Mormon history today is the fact that those who have gone before us have not always been honest. Both Mormon and anti-Mormon writers have sometimes been guilty of deceit. This makes it very difficult to determine what the truth is with regard to some issues.... We have spent a good deal of time trying to learn the truth concerning these documents, and although we are not pleased with the results of our research, we feel that it would be dishonest and unfair to the Mormon people to suppress our findings." (A Critical Look—A Study of the Overstreet "Confession" and the Cowdery "Defence")

    We sincerely feel that if the case against Mormonism could not be supported with concrete evidence, we would want nothing to do with it.

    While the fall of the Hofmann documents may cause some Mormons to have doubts about anything that is critical of the church, it has made many others become concerned about their spiritual leaders. The Mormon Church has always maintained that the current President is a prophet who receives revelations and guidance directly from the Lord. In Tracking The White Salamander, page 73, we have a picture of President Spencer W. Kimball, the twelfth President of the Mormon Church. He is flanked by Mark Hofmann, President N. Eldon Tanner, President Marion G. Romney, Apostle Boyd K Packer and Gordon B. Hinckley (who is now a member of the First Presidency). They are all gazing at Mark Hofmann's first major discovery-a sheet of paper purporting to contain characters which Joseph Smith himself copied from the gold plates of the Book of Mormon. Although President Kimball was supposed to be a "seer" and have the power to "translate all records that are of ancient date" (Book of Mormon, Mosiah 8:13), he was unable to translate the characters which appeared on the transcript. Instead of using the "seer stone," he examined the characters with a magnifying glass. Not only did he fail to provide a translation, but he was unable to detect that the church was being set up to be defrauded of a large amount of money and many historical items out of its archives. Moreover, he entirely failed to see the devastating and embarrassing effect this transaction and others which followed would have on the Mormon Church. If ever revelation from the Lord was needed, it was on that day in 1980 when Mark Hofmann stood in the presence of President Kimball and other notable Mormon leaders. The church gave Hofmann $20,000 worth of material from the archives for the sheet containing the forged Book of Mormon characters. It is obvious from this that the Mormon Apostles do not have the same power that Apostle Peter had when he caught Ananias and Sapphira red-handed in their attempt to deceive the church with regard to a financial transaction (see Acts 5:3).

    President Gordon B. Hinckley, who is also shown in the photograph, approved many of Hofmann's deals with the church. It was Hinckley who purchased the forged 1825 letter of Joseph Smith relating to magic from Mark Hofmann for $15,000. This controversial letter was suppressed for two years and the church even denied that it had the letter (see Tracking The White Salamander, pages 86-91). It appears that if the Mormon Church was ever led by revelation, it has been lacking since Mark Hofmann came into the church offices with the transcript of Book of Mormon characters. The inability of the Mormon leaders to detect the religious fraud being perpetrated upon them certainly raises a question with regard to their "testimony" concerning the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.


    In the book, Tracking The White Salamander, pages 104-108, we have some important information regarding the possibility that Mark Hofmann was planning to forge (or had forged) the lost 116 pages of the Book of Mormon. Some time in 1982 or 1983 we heard that Mark Hofmann claimed he had discovered the lost 116 pages of the Book of Mormon manuscript-also known as the Book of Lehi. The reader may remember that Joseph Smith's scribe Martin Harris borrowed the first 116 pages of the manuscript and lost them. Joseph Smith had not retained a copy of the Book of Lehi and therefore was unable to reproduce an exact copy. Since he feared that his translation of the Book of Lehi. might still bein existence and that his enemies might bring it forth to refute his work if he tried to reproduce it, he found himself facing a serious dilemma. To solve the problem Smith claimed he "translated" the Book of Nephi in its place. He said that this book covered the same time period and its contents were even more spiritual than the Book of Lehi. As long as the Book of Nephi gave approximately the same story as was found in the missing 116 pages Joseph Smith did not have to worry about critics finding them. The two books would not have to agree in the exact wording of the story.

    In any case, Mark Hofmann claimed that he was searching for the lost 116 pages. In an interview published in Sunstone Review, Sept. 1982, page 18, Mr. Hofmann said that he hoped "the lost 116 manuscript pages exist" and that he had already "spent thousands of dollars in the pursuit of them,..." Sometime later Hofmann began confiding in friends that he had finally located the 116 pages of the Book of Mormon and that they were "dynamite." The manuscript was reported to contain information about money-digging interwoven with material that reads like the published Book of Nephi. When we discussed the matter with Mr. Hofmann, he admitted that a manuscript purporting to be the 116 missing pages had been found in the possession of a woman in Bakersfield, California. He claimed, however, that it was a forgery.

    Hugh Pinnock, one of the General Authorities of the Mormon Church, was very interested in the possibility that the missing Book of Mormon pages might still be in existence. Allen Roberts and Fred Esplin claim that "Police sources indicate that Steve Christensen's personal journal records that Elder Hugh Pinnock asked Hofmann to find for him two important items: the lost 116 pages of the Book of Mormon and something 'too sensitive to mention,' that the late 'Elders Mark E. Petersen and G. Homer Durham were most involved in prior to their deaths.' " (Utah Holiday, Jan. 1986, p. 58)

    As we have already stated, Mr. Hofmann told us that he had located a forgery of the 116 pages in California. When we pressed him as to how he knew it was a forgery, he replied that it quoted verbatim things that were peculiar to the "Wright" edition of the Book of Mormon—an edition published after Joseph Smith's death and used by at least some members of the early RLDS Church. Later when investigators searched Mark Hofmann's home after the bombings, they found some of his handwritten notes concerning the Book of Lehi. The Mormon bishop Brent Ashworth also preserved some of Mr. Hofmann's notes concerning the manuscript. The reader will find a photocopy of one page of Mark Hofmann's notes on the next page. According to Hofmann the "BOOK OF LEHI" began as follows:

" 'This record I Lehi make upon plates of gold, & I make it with my own hand, it being a history of my life and of the workings of God.' "

    Mr. Hofmann had told us that the manuscript told of a mine Lehi had outside Jerusalem which contained many valuable treasures. Hofmann's note concerning page 4 of the manuscript seems to agree with the information he gave us:

"4- 'he [God] should cause to be found certa[i]n treasures in the hole of the earth, and out of the earth shall the righteous prosper....' Location a secret."

(click to enlarge)

    Mark Hofmann originally represented to Brent Ashworth that the manuscript was genuine but later told him that it was a forgery. (Since Mr. Hofmann mentioned the "Wright" edition of the Book of Mormon in the notes he gave to Mr. Ashworth, we must presume that Ashworth obtained them after Hofmann began claiming that the manuscript was a forgery.) Mr. Ashworth realized that even if the manuscript were a 19th century forgery, as Hofmann maintained, it would be a unique forgery which would be of some value. He offered Mr. Hofmann $10,000 for the forged manuscript. Although Hofmann showed him evidence that he had traveled to Bakersfield, he never produced it. Consequently, Mr. Ashworth did not lose the money.

    When we discussed the manuscript with Mr. Hofmann, we suggested that it would be an important forgery and that it should be obtained. He replied that the Mormon Church was also trying to obtain it but the church would not pay the amount of money the woman in Bakersfield was asking.

    While the handwritten notes Mr. Hofmann made concerning "The BOOK OF LEHI" certainly seem to show that he was working on some type of forgery of the 116 missing pages, they also raise many questions. For instance, was the manuscript ever actually penned or are the handwritten notes extracts of something which only existed in Hofmann's mind? Why did Hofmann first claim that the manuscript was genuine and then switch to saying it was a 19th century forgery? Could he have made a mistake in the manuscript which someone informed him about that caused him to abort the project? Is it possible that the manuscript was completed and secretly sold and that the story that it was a forgery was only a means of quieting publicity about the sale? Another theory might be that Mr. Hofmann was merely trying to impress the Mormon leaders that he was a great document detective who was only seeking the truth. By claiming that he had detected forgery in a copy of the 116 pages he had found and showing how he had pinned the crime down to someone who possessed a "Wright" edition of the Book of Mormon, Mr. Hofmann could have really impressed church officials with his honesty and skill. This would have thrown them off guard, and when he showed up with a sophisticated forgery of the 116 pages they might have become easy targets for his scheme.

    When we began to consider the possibility that the Book of Lehi in Bakersfield might be nothing but a figment of Hofmann's imagination, we realized that if he ever did create the 116 missing pages and used any quotations from the Book of Nephi, he would probably take into consideration readings obtained from the original manuscript pages of the Book of Mormon. Since changes were made in the text between the manuscript and the first printed version and even more changes were made in later editions, it would be very wise to consult the original manuscripts before making any quotations. From information we have been able to obtain, it appears that Mark Hofmann did, in fact, have a great deal of interest in the original manuscripts of the Book of Nephi and would therefore be in a good position to know how to forge the Book of Lehi so that it would be believable. If a manuscript came forth which purported to be the lost 116 pages of the Book of Mormon and it contained portions similar to the printed Book of Nephi, a comparison of these portions with the original manuscripts would become very important. If the long-lost manuscript strictly followed the printed version, it might be declared a forgery. If, on the other hand, it contained peculiarities found only in the original manuscripts, this would probably be interpreted as evidence for its authenticity. Hofmann's earlier work in disproving the manuscript which used quotations from the "Wright" edition could even suggest the idea of making such a comparison with the original manuscripts.

    That Mark Hofmann was planning a very sophisticated version of the lost 116 pages seems to be supported by a number of things. To begin with, in 1982 he claimed to find a letter written by Joseph Smith's mother. This is the only document accepted by the church which reveals anything concerning the contents of the missing pages of the Book of Mormon manuscript. At about the same time, Mr. Hofmann began to discover documents relating to Joseph Smith's scribe, Martin Harris. This is important because Harris would have been the scribe for most of the 116 missing pages, and up until the time Mark Hofmann came on the scene, no known samples of his writing were available-there were only a few signatures. At first Hofmann only brought forth a letter which was signed by Martin Harris. The text of the letter was supposed to be in the hand of his son. Then came the Grandin contract which the Mormon Church obtained for $25,000. This document also contained only a signature purported to be that belonging to Martin Harris. Finally, in 1983 the Salamander letter came forth. This letter had over 600 words which were supposed to be penned by Harris himself. With the authentication of Harris' handwriting in the Salamander letter, the stage was well prepared for the ultimate discovery—the Book of Lehi. It is claimed that investigators have in their possession a Book of Mormon in which every word has been given a number. This would be a massive project because the Book of Mormon is supposed to contain over 269,000 words! It has been speculated that this project might be tied to about 30 file drawers of note cards on the Book of Mormon and that the purpose might be to imitate Joseph Smith's literary style in the missing 116 pages. While this would seem like a tremendous amount of work, the Book of Lehi could probably be sold to the Mormon Church for millions of dollars!

    While the RLDS Church has a complete copy of the Book of Mormon manuscript (the printers copy), the Utah Mormon Church has only a partial copy. We now know that Mr. Hofmann was forging pages that are missing in the Mormon Church's copy of the Book of Mormon manuscript. Brent Ashworth paid Mr. Hofmann $25,000 for just one sheet that was missing in the church's copy of the manuscript. The Book of Lehi would obviously be worth much more than pages from known portions of the Book of Mormon, especially if the contents were controversial.

    Although it seems very likely that Mark Hofmann was planning to forge the missing Book of Lehi and sell it to the Mormon Church for a large amount of money, at this point we have no evidence to show that the plan was actually carried out. We will, however, be looking for any information that points in this direction. For a more complete treatment of the Book of Lehi story we recommend our book Tracking The White Salamander, pages 104-108.


    On January 24, 1987, the New York Times printed some strange information concerning the Hofmann case:

"SALT LAKE CITY, Jan. 23 — Spurning his father's appeal that he submit to execution to atone for two 1985 murders, a former Mormon missionary chose instead today to plead guilty to the crimes in return for a sentence of life imprisonment.... According to family members, the plea arrangement that spared his life was delayed in recent weeks by the intervention of his father, a Mormon, and other family members who said they believed that if the younger Mr. Hofmann was guilty of the murders he should be executed.

"This belief is rooted in the Mormon doctrine of 'blood atonement,' which holds that some crimes are so grievous that the crucifixion of Jesus had not redeemed their sins. The crimes that fall under the doctrine, promulgated principally by Brigham Young .... include murder and adultery....

"In the end, church experts said, Mr. Hofmann's father accepted the idea that his son would not have to be executed. In an effort at atonement, Mr. Hofmann, through his attorney, apologized to members of his victims' families at a meeting Thursday."

    In Tracking The White Salamander, pages 148-150, we discuss whether the doctrine of blood atonement could have any effect with regard to Hofmann's views about taking human life. The story in the New York Times certainly adds an unexpected element to this bizarre case.


    In the April 1986 issue of the Salt Lake City Messenger we printed an article entitled, "LAW SUIT OVER—UNFAIR VERDICT IS OVERTURNED." In this article we told how a man by the name of Andrew Ehat, with the help of a lawyer who represents Brigham Young University's Religious Studies Center, brought a lawsuit against us in 1983 alleging that we had violated his copyright in printing extracts from Joseph Smith's private secretary's diaries which he had typed. Since these diaries contained information which was very embarrassing to the "Jormon leaders they had been suppressed in the First Presidency's vault for many years. We were brought before a Mormon judge who seems to have been swayed by the plaintiffs arguments that we had printed a great deal of sensitive material from the Mormon Church's archives. Although the judge had to admit that Mr. Ehat did not really have a copyright interest in the material, he nevertheless awarded Ehat $16,000 for what he called "unfair competition" and damage to his reputation! We knew that there was absolutely no basis in law for this unjust verdict and appealed to the U. S. Court of Appeals For The Tenth Circuit. A panel of three judges examined the case and ruled in our favor:

"Andrew Ehat brought this action against Gerald and Sandra Tanner... Judgment was entered against the Tanners, and they appeal. We reverse....

"Ehat 'cannot achieve by an unfair competition claim what [he] failed to achieve under [his] copyright claim,'... The case is reversed and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."

    While we firmly believed that this would end the whole matter, we were soon astounded to learn that the case had been appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States. We had previously told Mr. Ehat's lawyer that we would go to the Supreme Court if necessary to obtain justice, but in view of the weakness of his case, we never expected that he would make such a foolish move. Finally, on Oct. 6. 1986, Joseph F. Spaniol, Jr., Clerk of the Supreme Court of the United States, wrote us a letter stating that Ehat's "petition for a writ of certiorari is denied." This, of course, meant that our victory in the U.S. Court of Appeals For The Tenth Circuit was absolutely final. The costs in fighting this suit over a period of three years had mounted to between thirty and forty thousand dollars. In, the "Stipulation For Settlement," pages 1-2, Mr. Ehat acknowledged an obligation to reimburse us for some of the expenses:

"1. The plaintiff ANDREW EHAT hereby acknowledges that as a result of the resolution of this action by the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, the ruling of this Court after the appeal and the denial of the plaintiffs petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, the defendants have the right to seek against the plaintiff an award from the Trial Court, of the attorneys fees incurred by defendants in this matter.

"2. The plaintiff hereby acknowledges that as a result of the resolution of this action by the United States Court of Appeals ... the plaintiff has an obligation to pay to the defendants the court costs (in an amount to be determined by the Court) that the defendants incurred in this matter."

    Although we felt that there was a possibility of forcing Mr. Ehat into bankruptcy, we did not feel that this was the right course to pursue. Mr. Ehat paid us a very modest sum (only a fraction of the costs we had encountered) and we agreed to accept this "in full settlement of any potential obligations." The final paper was signed Oct. 17, 1986. We just feel thankful to God that the long nightmare is now finally and forever ended, and want to express our appreciation to the people who stood with us through this terrible ordeal. The prayers and financial help were a great encouragement, and we are happy to announce that all the bills are now paid.



    One of the editors of this newsletter (Jerald Tanner) is now recording a set of tapes concerning his life and the work of Utah Lighthouse Ministry.

    In these tapes Jerald tells some of his early memories concerning growing up as a Mormon in Utah. He discusses his battle with selfishness and pride and his disillusionment with the Mormon Church. He tells of going back to Missouri to search for the "only true church" and his startling discovery that he was a sinner in desperate need of God's salvation. He goes on to relate how he received Jesus as his personal Saviour and the amazing changes God made in his life.

    An account is given concerning how Jerald and Sandra first became acquainted and how God worked in their lives to start a ministry to Mormons. Jerald tells how a Mormon Apostle sternly warned him against starting a work critical of the church and later threatened a lawsuit to prevent important material from being published. He reveals some of the fears he has had and the problems encountered in keeping the work going. He also deals with a particularly traumatic incident in his life which helped convince him of the power of the adversary and the need for constant prayer. In these tapes, Jerald tells of the peculiar ways God has blessed the work of Utah Lighthouse Ministry and expresses his belief that if Christians will pray and be faithful tens of thousands of Mormons will come to know the Lord in a very personal way. Although these tapes were created mainly for the purpose of helping Mormons, they can also be a real encouragement to those who are working with them.



    In the January 1985 issue of the Messenger we told of our interest in the area of world relief. We related that $1,000 had been designated "for relief work in Africa-i.e., providing food, medical relief, shelter and a demonstration of true Christian love." At that time we decided to provide monthly support for five children under the World Vision Childcare Partner plan. In the April 1986 issue of the Messenger we reported: "Because God has been so gracious in supplying all our needs, we have decided to take another step in faith. In the future we will be supporting 25 children."

    Since God has continued to bless our work in a marvelous way, we have decided to take an even larger step of faith and expand the ministry TO SUPPORT 100 CHILDREN! While we have some money designated for this work, it is basically a move made on faith that the Lord will continue to provide as the months go by. We still have our regular expenses. It is necessary that we meet these obligations so that we can continue an effective work among the Mormons. We do hope that our friends will pray earnestly about UTAH LIGHTHOUSE MINISTRY and world relief. While we feel somewhat apprehensive about making this move, we know that God "is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,..." (Ephesians 3:20)

    Those who are interested in helping out with this important ministry can send their tax deductible contributions to UTAH LIGHTHOUSE MINISTRY, Box 1884, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110. [Web-editor: Or place a donation over the internet using our secure shopping cart.]



    For years we have pointed out that Dr. Hugh Nibley, the noted Mormon apologist, has been so zealous to prove Mormonism that he has used weak parallels and wishful-thinking in an attempt to establish his case. When Mark Hofmann forged a copy of the Anthon transcript (the sheet that is supposed to contain the characters Joseph Smith copied directly from the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon was supposed to have been translated), Hugh Nibley latched onto it with a great deal of enthusiasm and immediately proclaimed: "Of course it's translatable" (The Provo Herald, May 1, 1980). According to the same paper, "Nibley also said he counted at least two dozen out of 47 characters in the Demotic alphabet that could be given phonetic value.

    " 'This offers as good a test as we'll ever get. Nobody could have faked those characters. It would take 10 minutes to see that this is fake.' "

    Barry Fell, whose work is often used by Mormon scholars to support their theories concerning ancient America, went even further than Dr. Nibley. He claimed that the forged Hofmann transcript actually contained Arabic characters and proceeded to translate them. His translation almost exactly matched the first part of the Book of Mormon!

    While those of us who are critics of the Mormon Church may be amused by these examples, we must be very careful not to become so over zealous that we fall into the same trap. Unfortunately, we have noted a tendency in this direction during the last few years. This is especially true with regard to writings and lectures concerning the Mormon temple ceremony. One couple claimed that the Mormons are really calling upon Lucifer when they repeat the words "Pay lay ale" three times in the temple ceremony. Ed Decker and others picked up on this idea and it was printed in a number of publications which have been circulated throughout the world. It was claimed that the words pay lay ale were taken from the Hebrew language and could be translated: 'WONDERFUL LUCIFER.' This is certainly an extremely serious charge. If it could be proven true, it would go a long way toward demonstrating that Mormonism is inspired by Satan.

    Because we published an expose of the temple ceremony in our book Mormonism —Shadow or Reality? and were constantly being asked about this accusation, we published a statement about the matter on June 29, 1982. It was entitled, PAY LAY ALE An Examination Of The Charge That The Mormons Call Upon Lucifer In Their Temple, by Jerald Tanner. The following appeared on the first page of that statement:

"...I feel that I owe the public a statement which sets forth my views. Although I do not profess to be a Hebrew scholar, I feel that my research throws some important light on the subject.

"Since I have been active in bringing forth evidence against the authenticity of Joseph Smith's work, I would have been very happy to have found that this new indictment was based on sound research. Unfortunately, however, a careful examination of the evidence has forced me to conclude that the charge is without foundation."

    Wesley P. Walters, one of the top authorities on Mormon history who has had some training in the Hebrew language, also felt that the translation "Wonderful Lucifer" was incorrect. He tried to warn against the spread of this idea, but his protest availed nothing. In our statement we pointed out that if the words pay lay ale are really derived from Hebrew, a better rendering would be 'WONDERFUL GOD.' While the identification of "wonderful" with "pay lay" is not certain (Wesley P. Walters, in fact feels that it is questionable), ale does correspond perfectly to a Hebrew word for God, . It is translated as 'el and is pronounced ale (see Strong's Concordance, Hebrew word #410). While the Hebrew word Elohim is usually used for God (see Mormonism —Shadow or Reality? page 168), El is also found in many places in the Old Testament.

    After we published the statement on pay lay ale, some of the tracts containing the translation "Wonderful Lucifer" were changed. Unfortunately, however, some of those who had previously supported the translation "Wonderful Lucifer" put forth the idea that "the Hebrew translation of these words can be either marvelous false god or marvelous true god." This of course is incorrect. The word El can only be translated as "God." The word itself does not give any indication of whether the god spoken of is true or false. It is the same with our English word "God." It cannot be translated into another language as "false god" or "true, God." It is true, of course, that the context of a statement can help us determine whether it is speaking of a false god. For instance, the words "my god is Satan" would be understood as referring to a false god.

    In defense of the translation 'Wonderful False God,' it has been claimed that the word El is "a generic term for God" and that it "is the word which is most often used to denote the false gods of the Bible." Because we did not believe this statement was accurate, we decided to make a test. We looked up all of the passages we could find in the book of Isaiah which used the word El. We found 22 places where the word appeared. When we read the context of these verses, we found that 15 of the 22 were written concerning the God of Israel.

    The word El appears as a part of many names found in the Bible. For instance, it is found in Israel and is also part of the name Immanuel. In Isaiah 7:14 we read: "...Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and call his name Immanuel." This name is translated as "with us (is) God [El]."

(click to enlarge)

    Matthew renders this word correctly in the New Testament: "...they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." (Matthew 1:23) We feel it is inconsistent to accept the translation of El as God in this passage and yet maintain it should be translated 'False God' in the temple ritual. It should be noted also that the temple ritual itself indicates that the translation of the words pay lay ale is, "O God, hear the words of my mouth."'

    It has been suggested that because Lucifer appears just after Adam prays that he is in fact Adam's god. Actually, a careful examination of this part of the ritual shows that Adam rejects Lucifer's message. Our reproduction of the temple ceremony as well as that published by Chuck Sackett makes this very clear:

LUCIFER: (arrogantly) I am the God of this world.

ADAM: (unsure, questioning) You, the God of this world?

LUCIFER: Yes, what do you want?

ADAM: I am looking for messengers. (What's Going On In There? by Chuck Sackett, Thousand Oaks, California, 1982, page 33)

    Both versions of the temple ritual quote Adam as saying: "I was calling upon Father" and indicate that Adam spurns Lucifer's teachings. It should be noted also that in the version published in What's Going On In There? page 33, Adam directly questions Lucifer's claim to be the God of this world: "You, the God of this world?" If Adam were really calling upon Lucifer, why would he dispute Lucifer's claim and say that he was "calling upon Father"?

    Some have used Lucifer's statement that he is "the God of this world" as evidence that the Mormons worship Lucifer. We feel that this is a very poor argument because most Christians feel that Paul was referring to Satan when he wrote: "In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them." (II Corinthians 4:4)

    Another item which is used to try to link the temple ceremony to the worship of Lucifer is the fact that the Mormons wear fig-leaf embroidered aprons during the ritual and that Lucifer is supposed to be the one who originally suggested this idea:

LUCIFER: See, you are naked. Take some fig leaves and make you aprons. Father will see your nakedness. Quick, hide. (Mormonism —Shadow or Reality? page 467)

    This portion of the ceremony is dealing with the Garden of Eden and comes before the part in which Adam rejects Lucifer and his doctrine. One of the early accounts of the ritual seems to indicate that it was God who gave Adam and Eve the aprons. Mary Ettie V. Smith claimed that "The Lord then put aprons upon Adam and Eve, and upon us all, made of white linen, illustrated by means of green silk, to represent fig-leaves." (Mormonism: Its Rise Progress, and Present Condition, 1870, page 45) Fanny Stenhouse's book, Tell It All, 1875, p. 364, does not mention the Lord as being present but indicates that Lucifer was not: "Then the devil leaves her, Adam makes his appearance, and Eve persuades him also to eat of the fruit of the tree. After this they make a dumb show of perceiving their condition, and an apron of white linen is produced, on which are sewn pieces of green silk, in imitation of fig leaves, and in these they both attire themselves." The accounts of the temple ceremony published in the Salt Lake Tribune, Feb. 12, 1906, and in Temple Mormonism, 1931, do not link Lucifer with these aprons. The whole thing appears to be Adam's idea. The idea that Lucifer instructed Adam and Eve concerning their aprons appears to have been a later addition to the ceremony. While it is not really Biblical, it would be more in accord with the Bible than having God supply the fig-leaf aprons. The fig-leaf covering is generally considered by Christians to represent man's works which are not acceptable to God.

    In any case, while it is true that in the present version of the temple ceremony Lucifer suggests the fig-leaf aprons, we do not feel that this proves that the Mormons worship him. This, of course, does not mean that we feel that the ceremony comes from God. On the contrary, the use of the aprons plainly shows that the ceremony is man-made. If the ritual were inspired by God, the participants would not wear a fig-leaf apron (the symbol of man's own covering for sin) throughout the ritual. The apron, of course, is worn on the outside of the temple robes. The inconsistency becomes even more apparent when we learn that the temple garment is supposed to represent the "coats of skins" which God made for Adam and Eve. The idea of wearing the fig-leaf covering over the covering provided by God seems to show a great deal of confusion in the minds of those who created the ceremony.

    People are often led to believe that those who pass through the temple put on the same type of apron that Lucifer wears. This is simply not true. The apron worn by patrons is green with fig leaves embroidered in it. The Devil's apron, on the other hand, is not green. It is worn under his suit and only briefly displayed. One man says that it is blue while another claims that it is black with blue thread. Both, however, maintain that it contains two pillars and a checkerboard pattern as well as other Masonic symbols. It is supposed to resemble a Masonic apron worn even before the time of Joseph Smith. Those who have observed Lucifer's apron seem to agree that it not only differs in color from those worn by temple patrons but also has an entirely different design from the fig-leaf pattern. When writers and lecturers tell people that the Mormons put on "Luciferic aprons" which are "similar" to the one worn by the Devil and thus put themselves under "his power and priesthoods," they are misrepresenting what really goes on. One lecturer claims he has discovered that green is Lucifer's special color. The Mormons, he maintains, are putting on the Devil's color when they tie on their aprons. He does not explain, however, why Lucifer does not wear a green apron. It would seem more logical to believe that the apron is green because it represents fig-leaves. Following this man's line of reasoning concerning the color green, a Mormon might argue that Christians who wear green chorus robes are worshipping the Devil, or that the "wearing of the green" on Saint Patrick's day is a "Luciferian" plot to get people under his power.

    While we agree that portions of the Mormon temple ceremony were borrowed from Masonry (see Mormonism —Shadow or Reality? pages 484-492) and have roots in the occult, we feel that some people are becoming so obsessed with trying to find "Luciferian" influence in the temple ritual that they have lost sight of reality. Just as Hugh Nibley and Barry Fell strained their eyes to find parallels between the Hofmann transcript and ancient languages, these people are seeing many things that simply are not there. While it is true that the temple ritual tries to link Christians and ministers of other churches to the Devil's work, a person who carefully reads the temple ceremony will see that the whole thrust of its message is a put down of Lucifer (see Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? pages 462-473). Although we certainly do not endorse the penal oaths and the attacks on our religion found in the temple ceremony, we feel that the picture being painted by some Mormon critics is badly distorted.

    Notwithstanding the fact that Mark Hofmann's documents have fallen into disrepute and some Mormon critics have overstated the relationship between "the temple ritual and Satanism, it is certainly true that Joseph Smith and other Mormon leaders were involved in magic practices. Although we have demonstrated this in our book Mormonism, Magic and Masonry, in almost thirty years of research we have never found any secret LDS doctrine in which Lucifer is worshipped as God. If we had found any such evidence we would have been the first to publish it.

    At Utah Lighthouse Ministry we encourage people to avoid extremes. We try to present good factual material. It is our belief that the truth will bear its own weight. It does not need to be embellished in any way. For a detailed study of Mormonism and the occult we recommend Mormonism, Magic and Masonry. We especially recommend Appendix A of this book for those who want to keep a good balance on the subject. It is entitled, "THE QUESTION OF SATANIC INFLUENCE IN THE BOOK OF MORMON AND IN THE TEMPLE CEREMONY."



    Please dont send any more anti Mormon garbage to this address... why don't you find something new to make money on? The Church will grow inspite of you. You are defeating your purpose....

    Good luck you will need it especially after this life. Merry Christmas (Letter from California)

    Just a note to thank you for the impact your work has had on my life. I am a new, fully functioning person since I left the Mormon church six years ago. Through a miracle, I discovered your book Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? about 10 years ago. The book was a catalyst for me.... I feel so free, so happy, and yet so responsible far my life .... We have been extremely interested in the Hofmann affair... We are depending on you for a more complete understanding of the events because you do not have to protect the LDS church. (Letter from Texas)

    I was raised in the Mormon Church and I have always believed it was Gods only true church. My husband and I were married in the Temple and have always been very dedicated to the church. We have been especially involved in missionary work, which brought us into contact with anti-Mormon. literature. Much of it was of such poor quality that we quickly disregarded it. When we were given your book The Changing World of Mormonism, however, it was more difficult to deal with.

    It took a long time and a lot of research for us to come to grips with the fact that the evidence against the church is overwhelming. It was painful to then have to accept the fact that the church could not possibly be true, especially after we had given so much of ourselves to the church, but we are glad we took the step.

    We realize now that it is due to your straight forward, well-documented and factual approach to Mormon claims that the evidence was able to make an impression upon us. (Letter from Kansas)

    I have just gained access to your "The Changing World of Mormonism." I recognize it for what it is. It is a scholarly work in its limited field. In that it tells the truth it is good. Where it conveys a destructive or false impression it is not good.... You have sought and are seeking to destroy.... You have sold yourself.... there are millions that do not share your view.... you will be held accountable for what you do.... I suggest you harmonize your work with Jesus Christ or be prepared for what must come. (Letter from California)

    I'm reading your ..."Mormonism—Shadow or Reality?." Very interesting and the greatest book published. I was born a mormon but no longer believe it's doctrine.... I'm so glad I found out the truth about the L.D. S. Church. (Letter from Oregon)

    I have read with great interest, your works on Mormonism, as a matter of fact, I can say today, I am an ex-Mormon because of some of your works. Now I share your ministry, with gladness and fervor. I am currently witnessing to the Missionaries... (Letter from Wyoming)

    As you can see by the heading, we EX RLDS have formed a group here in Independence... I thank God for your ministry, Gerald and Sandra, since I wrote to you 2 years ago when I was coming out of the RLDS church and you were kind enough to direct me to other RLDS who I got in touch with and helped me work through all the mess until I found the REAL Jesus! So praise God you are hanging in there and are committed to His work--thanks! (Letter from Missouri)

    We have been members of the Mormon Church for the past ten years. We have finally "thought our way out,' so to speak and have asked for our names to be removed from the membership records of the church. We have read your books, The Changing World of Mormonism, and Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? and various other literature. (Letter from Connecticut)

    I have finally gotten my name removed from the records of the LDS church.,... myself and daughters have all accepted Christ this year.... I have also found two friends who have recently accepted Christ and left the Mormon Church. We would like to start a group for other LDS members who are questioning or are in the process of leaving the LDS church. (Letter from Wyoming)

    It sure marvels me that you help God unwittingly shaking out luke-warm & useless members of the Mormon church and strength[en] the stronger ones. It also encourages me all the more in wanting to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints — as soon as I work on quitting smoking and drinks and coffee. (Letter from Washington, DC)

    I am a returned missionary, a former Bishops counselor, High Counselor, and Stake Young Mens Prisedent. Currently I'm a High Priest and teach the Gospel Doctrine sunday school class in my branch. I just wanted to personally thank you for trying to bring the truth out into the open about my Church. I want the whole truth no matter what. Thank you. You are doing a find job. I really do look forward to each Messenger you send me. (Letter from Tennessee)


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