7. MARK AND JOSEPH
In the past two years there have been three fairly spectacular finds in the field of Mormon documents... Not since the Joseph Smith papyri were found in a New York museum in the sixties have there been such important discoveries for students of Mormon history. All three items were unearthed by the same collector: Mark Hofmann. (Sunstone Review, Sept. 1982, page 16)
The Prophet Joseph Smith produced for the world three new volumes of holy scriptures,...No prophet who ever lived has accomplished such a tremendous feat. There are only 177 pages in the Old Testament attributed to Moses, while Joseph Smith either translated through the gift and power of God or received as direct revelation from Jehovah 835. (Deseret News July 18, 1970)
Although the story of Mark Hofmann and his document dealing is a real tragedy for everyone involved, it can provide some very helpful insights with regard to Joseph Smith and the origin of the Mormon Church. In fact, it even throws light on the actions of the present leaders of the Church. While it must be admitted that there are many dissimilarities between Mark Hofmann and Joseph Smith, there are some remarkable parallels between the two men. To begin with, Joseph Smith was only in his twenties when he brought forth the Book of Mormon. Because of his age many people have argued that it would have been impossible for him to produce a book like the Book of Mormon without divine help. Mark Hofmann was about the same age when he began making his discoveries. Hofmann's followers have advanced an argument similar to that used for Joseph Smithi.e., how could such a young inexperienced man fabricate so many remarkable documents and fool Church leaders, historians and document experts?
Both Joseph Smith and Mark Hofmann had many devoted followers. It is often argued that the rapid growth and dedication of the early Mormon Church is a strong argument for Joseph Smith's divine calling. Joseph Smith himself once boasted:
"If they want a beardless boy to whip all the world, I will get on the top of a mountain and crow like a rooster: I shall always beat them....I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him, but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet." (History of the Church, vol. 6, pages 408-409)
While it is certainly true that Joseph Smith had many people who firmly believed in him, the same could be said of Mark Hofmann. In fact, the leaders of the Mormon Church had a great deal of faith in "Brother Hofmann" (see Deseret News, Church Section, May 3, 1980), In the Salt Lake Tribune, April 19, 1986, Mike Carter referred to the "blind trust of LDS officials in Bombing suspect Mark W. Hofmann..." Mr. Carter went on to say that it "was apparent that church leaders, including President Hinckley, trusted Mr. Hofmann implicitly..."
Another parallel between Mark Hofmann and Joseph Smith is that they both became famous because of a document they discovered. The Los Angeles Times, Nov. 8, 1985, printed the following: "Indeed, the very founding of Mormonism was based on the discovery of a document of sorts. Church doctrine holds that...Joseph Smith was led by an angel named Moroni to a set of golden plates... Smith, the Mormons believe, translated a 'reformed Egyptian' text on the plates into the Book of Mormon, which supposedly corrects the errors of other Christian religions." Mark Hofmann, of course, found himself in the limelight when he discovered the Anthon transcriptpurported to be Joseph Smith's own handwritten copy of the characters from the gold plates of the Book of Mormon. Mr. Hofmann went on to discover the first extant letter of Joseph Smiththe 1825 letter to Josiah Stowell. As if this were not startling enough, he found the last extant letter of Joseph Smith, written on the very day of his death. Prior to Hofmann's time, no one had ever found a letter signed by Martin Harris. Hofmann filled this gap by finding two letters signed by Harristhe Salamander letter of 1830 and the 1873 letter, which was written toward the end of his life. Both letters were extraordinary in their content. The 1873 letter contained a glowing testimony to both the Book of Mormon and the angel who showed Harris the gold plates. The Salamander letter, on the other hand, turned out to be a devastating account of how Joseph Smith found the gold plates. Mr. Hofmann also found the earliest known letter of Joseph Smith's mother, Lucy Mack Smith. Besides these documents and many others, Hofmann claimed to have the McLellin collectiona collection containing extremely important and sensitive Mormon documents. Hofmann's finds even went beyond Mormonism. For instance, he found an original Betsy Ross letter. Then, to top it all off, he discovered the "Oath of a Freeman," the first document printed in colonial America. While the discovery of a copy of the Oath of a Freeman would be astounding enough, Mark Hofmann claimed that he found two copies of the document! Moreover, he claimed that these copies were worth $1,500,000 eachmaking a total of $3,000,000.
While Mark Hofmann's claims almost leave one breathless, they seem insignificant when compared with the claims of Joseph Smith. In The Changing World of Mormonism, Sandra and I wrote the following about Joseph Smith:
"The validity of Mormonism rests upon the claims of Joseph Smith. When he was a young man, his family moved to the state of New York. Within a few miles of his home there was a hill, which Joseph Smith later called the Hill Cumorah. According to Joseph Smith, this was no ordinary hill, for on this hill two of the greatest battles in history were fought. Apostle Bruce R. McConkie says that 'both the Nephite and Jaredite civilizations fought their final great wars of extinction at and near the Hill Cumorah...which hill is located between Palmyra and Manchester in the western part of the state of New York. It was here that Moroni hid up the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated' (Mormon Doctrine, 1966, p. 175).
"Apostle McConkie further stated: 'It is reported by President Brigham Young that there was in the Hill Cumorah a room containing many wagon loads of plates' (p. 454).
"An ordinary person would probably see nothing of importance about this hill, but to the Mormons this is one of the most important places on earth.
"While Joseph Smith was digging a well for Clark Chase, he found 'a chocolate-colored, somewhat egg-shaped stone' (Comprehensive History of the Church, by B.H. Roberts, vol. 1, p. 129). This might have been just an ordinary stone (maybe a little unusual in appearance), but to Joseph Smith it became a 'seer stone.' This stone was supposed to have been prepared by God, and through it Joseph Smith received revelations.
"Joseph Smith claimed that on the night of September 21, 1823, he had a visitor. But this was no ordinary visitor, it was an angel sent from God. The angel told Smith that gold plates were buried in the Hill Cumorah. The next day Joseph Smith found these plates, and, if his story is true, he made the greatest discovery in the history of archaeology. Archaeologists have searched for years trying to piece together the history of the ancient inhabitants of this land, but Joseph Smith turned over one stone and found all the answers. Underneath this stone he found a box which held the gold plates. The plates contained 'an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang.' More important than this, however, they contained 'the fullness of the everlasting Gospel.' According to the Mormon leaders, the Book of Mormon is far superior to the Bible because it contains the 'pure' words of Christ. The Bible, they charge, has been altered by wicked priests....
"After the Mormon church was organized, Joseph Smith gave a revelation which stated that the Saints were to gather at Jackson County, Missouri. To the Mormon leaders, this was no ordinary land; they taught that it was the place where the 'Garden of Eden' was located. Apostle McConkie explains: 'The early brethren of this dispensation taught that the Garden of Eden was located in what is known to us as the land of Zion, an area for which Jackson County, Missouri, is the center place' (Mormon Doctrine, p. 20).
"In Daviess County, Missouri, Joseph Smith found some rocks which he claimed were the remains of an altar built by Adam. McConkie continues: 'At that great gathering Adam offered sacrifices on an altar built for the purpose. A remnant of that very altar remained on the spot down through the ages. On May 19, 1838, Joseph Smith and a number of his associates stood on the remainder of the pile of stones at a place called Spring Hill, Daviess County, Missouri' (Mormon Doctrine, p. 21)....
"In the year 1835 a man came to Kirtland, Ohio, with some mummies and rolls of papyrus. Joseph Smith examined the rolls and stated that I one of the rolls contained the writings of Abraham, another the writings of Joseph of Egypt' (History of the Church, vol.2, p. 236)." (The Changing World of Mormonism, pages 21-23)
Joseph Smith translated the Book of Abraham, and it is printed today by the Mormon Church as a part of the Pearl of Great Priceone of the four standard works of the Church.
While Mark Hofmann claimed to have some very old and important autographs, Joseph Smith's collection was far superior. On October 17, 1840, the Quincy Whig reported the following concerning a conversation Joseph Smith had with a visitor to Nauvoo:
" 'These ancient records,' said he, 'throw great light on the subject of Christianity.... There,' said he, pointing to a particular character, 'that is the signature of the patriarch Abraham.'
" 'It is indeed a most interesting autograph,' I replied, 'and doubtless the only one extant. What an ornament it would be to have these ancient manuscripts handsomely set, in appropriate frames, and hung up around the walls of the temple which you are about to erect at this place.'
" 'Yes,' replied the Prophet, 'and the translation hung up with them... (The Quincy Whig, Oct. 17, 1840, as quoted in Ancient Records Testify in Papyrus and Stone, by Dr. Sidney B. Sperry, pages 51-52)
When Josiah Quincy visited Nauvoo in 1844, Joseph Smith showed him the papyrus rolls. Quincy later wrote:
" 'And now come with me,' said the prophet, 'and I will show you the curiosities.'... There were some pine presses.... These receptacles Smith opened, and disclosed four human bodies, shrunken and black with age. 'These are mummies,' said the exhibitor. 'I want you to look at that little runt of a fellow over there....that was Pharaoh Necho, King of Egypt!' Some parchments inscribed with hieroglyphics were then offered us.... 'That is the handwriting of Abraham, the Father of the Faithful,' said the prophet. 'This is the autograph of Moses, and these lines were written by his brother Aaron. Here we have the earliest account of the Creation, from which Moses composed the First Book of Genesis.'... We were further assured that the prophet was the only mortal who could translate these mysterious writings, and that his power was given by direct inspiration." (Figures of the Past, by Josiah Quincy, as cited in Among the Mormons, 1958, pages 136-37)
After Joseph Smith's death the Egyptian papyri were lost. Unfortunately for his claims, however, his collection was rediscovered in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (see Deseret News, Nov. 27, 1967). Egyptologists translated the fragments from the very roll Joseph Smith declared was the Book of Abraham and found that it was nothing but a common Egyptian funerary text known as the "Book of Breathings." This is a pagan text which has a great deal to do with Egyptian gods and goddesses but has nothing to do with Abraham nor his religion. (For a complete treatment of the Book of Abraham see our book, MormonismShadow or Reality? pages 294-369-D.)
There is certainly an interesting parallel to Mark Hofmann with regard to this papyrus. It appears that both Smith and Hofmann misrepresented the papyrus they had obtained. Joseph Smith claimed that his papyrus was the Book of Abraham, when in reality it was nothing but a mortuary text written for a dead man named "Osiris Hor." Mark Hofmann maintained that the papyrus he had was from the Joseph Smith Papyri which had been preserved in the McLellin collection. The truth, of course, was that it was a common piece of papyrus which he had obtained from Kenneth Rendell.
INSIGHT ON HOFMANN
Although Mark Hofmann's actions can not be excused in the eyes of the law because of his background, I can not help but feel sorry for him. His involvement with Mormon history certainly could have played an important role in his problems. If we assume that he started out as a true believer in the Church, the things he learned from his study of Joseph Smith and early Mormonism could have come as a shattering blow to his faith. When he was asked if his profession had affected his beliefs, Mr. Hofmann replied: "I guess I am a lot more calloused than I was. But generally I just don't worry about some things. I don't have to figure everything out, have an explanation for everything. I can just say, 'Well, that's the way it is.' " (Sunstone Review, Sept. 1982, page 19)
Before Mark Hofmann went on his mission for the Church, he would have been thoroughly instructed in the importance of Joseph Smith to those who wish to be good Mormons. For instance, in the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 135, verse 3, we read: "Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it....He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people;..." What a disappointment it must have been to Mr. Hofmann when he found out that Joseph did not tell the truth concerning his involvement in polygamy. History reveals that by 1844, Joseph Smith had dozens of plural wives, yet when he was accused of have "six or seven young females as wives" on May 3, 1844, Joseph Smith replied:
"What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one.
"I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers." (History of the Church, vol. 6, page 411)
In a notice published in the Times and Seasons, February 1, 1844 (vol. 5, page 72), Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum, publicly called polygamy a false and corrupt doctrine:
"As we have lately been credibly informed, that an Elder of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter-day Saints, by the name of Hiram Brown, has been preaching polygamy, and other false and corrupt doctrines, in the county of Lapeer, state of Michigan.
"This is to notify him and the Church in general, that he has been cut off from the church, for his iniquity; and he is further notified to appear at the Special Conference, on the 6th of April next, to make answer to these charges."
If Mark Hofmann had learned from his study of history that the first Prophet of his Church had been a man of impeccable honesty, it could have made a great difference in his life. Perhaps he would have continued his study of medicine and become a doctor. Instead, he finds himself accused of deceit and treachery. Alvin Rust claimed that Mr. Hofmann told him four stories with regard to the McLellin collection. In this respect Hofmann was no different than Joseph Smith. In MormonismShadow or Reality? pages 143-150, we demonstrated that the Mormon Prophet told a variety of different stories concerning his most important visionthe First Vision of 1820. In a manuscript written in his own hand in 1832, preserved in the Church Archives, Joseph Smith clearly taught that only one personage (Jesus) appeared to him in this vision. In an entry in Joseph Smith's diary for 1835, also stored in the Church Archives, Joseph Smith related a different story. He claimed that there were many personages in the vision. In the official account, written in 1838, Joseph Smith asserted that both God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ appeared to him.
Since Mark Hofmann claimed to have the Kinderhook plates, it is obvious that he knew that Joseph Smith made a false translation of some of the characters on these bogus plates. The Prophet's example of making up false documents could have encouraged Hofmann in his forgery scheme. It is very clear, also, that Mark Hofmann knew Joseph Smith deceived his people with regard to the Book of Abraham papyrus. Smith had stated that the papyrus dated back to the time of Abraham and contained his signature. When Egyptologists examined the papyrus they claimed that it was not written until about the time of Christ, which would be almost two thousand years after Abraham's time. Even the Church's most noted apologist, Dr. Hugh Nibley, had to admit that "our Joseph Smith Book of Breathings" was written "in the first century A.D." (The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, page 3) Is it any wonder that when Mark Hofmann approached Kenneth Rendell concerning some papyrus he could pawn off as that used by Joseph Smith, he asked for "something from the first- or second-century A.D."? (Deseret News, Oct. 28, 1985)
In MormonismShadow or Reality? pages 337-345, 349-350, we demonstrated photographically that when Joseph Smith prepared the facsimiles for the Book of Abraham, he made false and imaginative restorations from other documents to fill in portions that were missing on the original papyrus fragments. These falsifications remind me very much of the Spalding-Rigdon document which Mr. Hofmann sold. The reader will remember that the signatures of both Spalding and Rigdon were added to an original document originally dated a century earlier. In the case of Joseph Smith, he falsely added hieratic characters where hieroglyphic characters should be in Fac. No. 2. Some of these characters were inserted upside down and read in the opposite direction to the rest of the text.
When it comes to counterfeiting Mormon money, Mark Hofmann may have learned a great deal from Church history. Mr. Hofmann was undoubtedly familiar with the story of Joseph Smith's Kirtland bank notes because he bought and sold them. William E. McLellin, who had served as an Apostle in the early Mormon Church, made this statement concerning the Kirtland Bank:
"Soon, therefore, it is determined that a Kirtland Bank must be established, to hold their treasures; and to aid them to get more. So eager were they, and so sanguine of success, that they did not even wait to get a charter from the State, but seemed to think that everything must bow at their nodthus violating the laws of the land in which they live, which in the end brought upon them swift destruction." (Ensign of Liberty, Kirtland, Ohio, March 1847, page 7)
Sidney Rigdon's son claimed that his father opposed the idea of operating without a charter: "He said it would not be legal as they had no charter. He did not wish to have anything to do with it, but Joseph Smith thought differently and persuaded Father to sign bills as president and Joseph signed them as cashier." (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Winter 1966, pages 27-28) The plates had already been made to print the "Bank" notes, but then, in an obvious attempt to get around the law, it was decided that the organization should be called an "Anti-Banking Co." Max Parkin gives this interesting information: "To avoid wasting the money expended on the production of the bank plates the necessary prefix, 'anti,' and suffix, 'ing Company,' added to the name 'Bank'to read 'Anti-Banking Company'was stamped on the bills. This was more adaptable to the three dollar note than to the others which did not conveniently receive the alteration." (Conflict at Kirtland, page 214) In the Comprehensive History of the Church, vol. 1, page 401, the Mormon historian B.H. Roberts made this statement about the alteration of the notes: "In issuing their notes the 'Kirtland Safety Society' doubtless made a mistake in that they used the notes printed from the plates prepared for their anticipated bank issue, using a stamp to make the notes readAnti-Bank-ing Co., instead of 'Kirtland Safety Society Bank.' This to avoid the necessity of incurring the expense of making new plates;..." (I wonder if it is possible that this could have suggested to Mark Hofmann the idea of using a rubber stamp when he forged the Spanish Fork Co-op notes.)
Joseph Smith claimed that he received a revelation from God concerning the Kirtland Bank. Wilford Woodruff, who later became the fourth President of the Church, wrote the following in his diary under the date of Jan. 6, 1837:
"6th I visited the office of the Kirtland Safety Society & saw the first money that was issued...
"I also he[a]rd President Joseph Smith jr. declare...in the Deposit Office that he had received that morning the Word of the Lord upon the subject of the Kirtland Safety Society. He was alone in a room by himself & he had not ownly the voice of the Spirit upon the Subject but even an audable voice. He did not tell us at that time what the LORD said upon the subject but remarked that if we would give heed to the Commandments the Lord had given this morning all would be well.
"May the Lord bless Brother Joseph with all the Saints & support the above named institution & Protect it so that every weapen formed against it may be broaken & come to nought while the Kirtland Safety Society shall become the greatest of all institutions on EARTH." (Wilford Woodruff's Journal, Edited by Scott G. Kenney, 1983, vol. 1, page 120)
Mormon historian B.H. Roberts admitted that "The 'Kirtland Safety Society' enterprise ended disastrously." (Comprehensive History, vol. 1, pp. 401-402) The Mormon writer John J. Stewart said that it "became bankrupt." (Joseph Smith the Mormon Prophet, page 110) In a thesis written at Brigham Young University, Gary Dean Guthrie stated:
"The State legislature refused the Kirtland Safety Society its charter upon which the name of the bank was changed to Kirtland Anti-Banking Society....Joseph and Sidney Rigdon were tried in court for violating the law, were found guilty and fined $1,000. They appealed on the grounds that the institution was an association and not a bank; the plea was never ruled upon as the bank suspended payments and closed its doors. Other lawsuits followed....
"During the summer of 1837, Joseph spent much of his time away from Kirtland to avoid these lawsuits....
"The blame of the bank failure fell heavily on Joseph. He had issued a formal invitation to his followers to take stock in the venture and the institution had been organized outside the law. Heber C. Kimball later was to comment that at this moment, 'there were not twenty persons on earth that would declare that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.' Six of the apostles came out in open rebellion.... Joseph first established the bank by revelation and then had to later admit that because of poor management and other internal and external conditions the project was a failure." ("Joseph Smith As An Administrator," M. A. thesis, BYU, May 1969, pages 80-82, 86 and 88)
Like Mark Hofmann, Joseph Smith was not able to adequately deal with his debts. Finally, on May 7, 1842, the Mormon paper, The Wasp, announced that he was taking out bankruptcy:
"Notice is hereby given, that Joseph Smith, of Hancock county has filed his petition in this Court to be declared a Bankrupt and to be discharged from his debts under the Act of Congress,..."
In a book published in 1846, Joseph H. Jackson charged that Joseph Smith had asked him to stay in Nauvoo and "enter into the manufacture of bogus;..." Mr. Jackson claimed that he consented to help Smith in making bogus. He also claimed that ten of the twelve Apostles were involved in the counterfeiting operation. (The Adventures and Experience of Joseph H. Jackson, Warsaw, Illinois, 1846, pages 10-12 and 15) Since Joseph H. Jackson was an adventurer and admitted that he deceived Joseph Smith to obtain his information, his story is somewhat suspect. Nevertheless, Jackson's charges can not be completely dismissed. We know that he worked for Joseph Smith. Under the date of May 20, 1843, we find this statement in Joseph Smith's History: "Mr. Joseph H. Jackson representing himself as being out of employment and destitute of funds, he desired I would employ him...I took compassion and employed him as a clerk to sell lands, so as to give him a chance in the world." (History of the Church, vol. 5, page 400)
Just before Joseph Smith's death, the Warsaw Signal contained a number of articles stating that the Mormons were involved in passing or making counterfeit coin:
"There is a species of counterfeit, extensively circulated in this community, called Nauvoo Bogus....They are a pretty good imitation of the genuine coin...some of our business men have been imposed upon by them. It is said they are manufactured in the City of the Saints." (Warsaw Signal, April 24, 1844)
"COUNTERFEITING, &c.On a former occasion, we stated that a species of counterfeit moneycalled Nauvoo Bogus, was extensively circulated in this vicinity. We have since heard the charge distinctly made by one who has had an opportunity of knowing the facts, that Joe Smith,...is engaged in this nefarious business....the fact is notorious that bogus is made in Nauvoo. Here then, we have a band of counterfeiters in our midst, who can defy the laws under the protection of a pretended prophet." (Ibid., June 5, 1844)
After Joseph Smith's death, the non-Mormons continued to accuse the Mormon leaders of counterfeiting. On December 25, 1844, we find this statement in the Warsaw Signal: "The Latter-Brethren have lately carried on their Bogus operations extensively. Not less than a dozen farmers who have taken their pork to Nauvoo, have been paid in spurious coin, or counterfeit bills." On January 7, 1846, the Warsaw Signal contained the following: "During the last week, twelve bills of indictment, for counterfeiting Mexican dollars, and American half dollars and dimes, were found by the Grand Jury, and presented to the United States Circuit Court, in session in this city, against different persons in and about Nauvoo, embracing some of the 'Holy Twelve,' and other prominent Mormons, and other persons in league with them."
The United States Government has preserved some important records concerning the indictment of the Mormon leaders for counterfeiting. In MormonismShadow or Reality? page 539, we have a photograph of a U.S. Government record which shows that Brigham Young and four of the other Mormon Apostles (Willard Richards, John Taylor, Parley P. Pratt and Orson Hyde) were indicted for counterfeiting. Among the list of others indicted we find the name "Joseph H. Jackson." This is very interesting, for Jackson, as I have already shown, admitted that he "consented" to help Joseph Smith in "the manufacture of bogus." Jackson also stated that "Barton and Eaton" were in on the bogus operation in Nauvoo. Among the list of those indicted we find the names "Augustus Barton" and "Gilbert Eaton." The name "Peter Hawes" also appears on the list. Maus J. Hansen shows that he was a member of the "Council of Fifty under Joseph Smith" (Quest For Empire, page 223). The "Manuscript History of Brigham Young" makes it very clear that Peter Haws was involved in the "bogus" business even after the Mormons left Nauvoo, for Brigham Young wrote the following under the date of May 12, 1846:
"While I was standing with Prest. Kimball at his tent, an outcry was heard from Peter Haws' Camp; we repaired thither and found that Haws and Thomas Williams and two others had a quarrel about some property, etc. that Haws had let Williams have some bogus money on shares and Williams had not paid him his share of the profits. I reproved them for dealing in base coin and told Haws he could not govern himself, his family, or a company; and unless he repented and forsook such dishonesty, the hand of the Lord would be against him and all those who partook of such corruption." ("Manuscript History of Brigham Young," May 12, 1846, typed copy)
The fact that Brigham Young rebuked Peter Haws can hardly be taken very seriously, since Haws continued to serve in the "Council of Fifty in Colonial Utah, 1847-49" (Quest For Empire, page 225) When we find that both Peter Haws and Brigham Young were under indictment for counterfeiting at the time this occurred, it throws a new light on the whole incident.
Alvin Rust, the man Mark Hofmann tricked into investing in the McLellin collection, wrote the following concerning Peter Haws:
"It has been discovered that in 1846 a Mormon named Peter Haws crossed the plains with the exiled Mormons and was the leader of a wagon company. Haws was also a private coiner and had been indicted in Nauvoo for counterfeiting U.S. coins. (It was noted that his counterfeits were of excellent quality.) While camped at Garden Grove, Iowa Territory, it was reported that Haws had his coining press in his wagon. To help pass the time, he was up to his old tricks and was again minting base-metal coins. On 12 May 1846 Brigham Young even came over to Haws' wagon and reproved him for this... Nevertheless, the Mormon leader left Haws in charge of his wagon company, and Haws came to the Great Salt Lake Valley." (Mormon and Utah Coin and Currency, pages 34-35)
Although Brigham Young denied that he was guilty of counterfeiting, he admitted in the History of the Church that he had tricked the U.S. Marshall when he tried to arrest him for being a bogus maker:
"One-five p.m. Almon W. Babbitt came into the Temple and informed me that there were some federal officers from Springfield...in the city for the purpose of arresting some of the Twelve, especially Amasa Lyman and myself....
"William Miller put on my cap and Brother Kimball's cloak and went downstairs meeting the marshal and his assistants at the door, as he was about getting into my carriage the marshal arrested him, on a writ from the United States court, charging him with counterfeiting the coin of the United States....
"The marshall put up at Hamilton's Tavern,... William Backenstos was called in and he told them William Miller was not Brigham Young....
"Eight-twenty. I left the Temple disguised..." (History of the Church, vol. 7, pages 549-551)
In a discourse delivered July 23, 1871, Brigham Young said that this was "one of the best jokes ever perpetrated." (Journal of Discourses, vol 14, pages 218-19) In the same discourse, Brigham Young acknowledged that he had instructed William Miller on how to "trick" the U.S. Marshall.
According to the United States Government records, the Mormon leaders were indicted for counterfeiting on Dec. 18, 1845. In 1846 they fled from Nauvoo and headed west. While the anti-Mormons were demanding that the Mormons leave Illinois, the indictments for counterfeiting apparently speeded things up. The Mormon writer Kenneth W. Godfrey commented: "Warrants pending for the arrest of Brigham Young and other leaders on charges of counterfeiting were among the reasons for the early departure of the Saints from the 'city of Joseph' in February rather than in the spring as originally proposed." (Brigham Young University Studies, Winter 1968, page 215) The Mormons continued west until they were completely outside the territorial limits of the United States.
In 1859 the Mormon people again found themselves in serious trouble because of the exposure of a counterfeiting operation. Mormon historian B.H. Roberts gives this information:
"Two incidents happened in the troublesome fall of 1859 that threatened for a time to bring on a conflict between citizens of Utah and the army at Camp Floyd. One of these is known...as the Spencer-Pike affair; the other was a plot to arrest Brigham Young in connection with a case of alleged counterfeiting of government drafts....
"The facts in the counterfeiting case...in which it was sought to involve President Young, are as follows: a party of men in Camp Floyd, prominent among whom were M. Brewer, and J.M. Wallace, conspired to counterfeit United States quartermaster orders on St. Louis and New York. In pursuance of this purpose they employed a young 'Mormon' engraver of Salt Lake City to duplicate the quartermaster's plate at Camp Floyd. This was skillfully accomplished and the counterfeit bills printed upon it. The forgery was soon discovered and the principal in the crime, Brewer, was arrested at Camp Floyd. He promptly turned state's evidence by confessing and threw responsibility for the crime upon the young 'Mormon' engraver; and implicated a person in Brigham Young's office for having furnished the paper for the counterfeit notes. The engraver's tools and engraving paraphernalia were all seized by Mr. Dotson, the United States marshal, and the young engraver was arrested. Afterwards, when visiting the engraver's regular workshop, where he had done work for Brigham Young on the 'Deseret currency plates,' these plates were also seized by Mr. Dotson and carried to Camp Floyd.
"The confession and allegation of Brewer seemed to bring this crime so close to the premises at least of President Young that it was hoped at Camp Floyd that he could be implicated in it....a plan for his arrest was arranged,...The plan was to issue a writ for the arrest of Brigham Young as well as the young 'Mormon' engraver, and apprehending that there would be resistance to the arrest of the former, the army was to be ordered into Salt Lake City; Johnston's artillery was to make a breach in the wall surrounding the ex-governor's premises, then the troops would sally forth, seize Brigham Young by force and hurry him to Camp Floyd." (A Comprehensive History of the Church, vol. 4, pages 503, 505 and 506)
B.H. Roberts goes on to show that Governor Cumming opposed the idea of the army "creeping through walls" to arrest Brigham Young. While Young was not arrested, B.H. Roberts says "The young 'Mormon' engraver of the counterfeit plates of the foregoing incident was put on trial, found guilty, and sentenced to prison for two years." (Ibid., p. 509) The reader will notice that B.H. Roberts was careful not to identified the Mormon involved in the counterfeiting scheme. While he spoke of him four different times, in every cast he referred to him as a "young 'Mormon' engraver." Historical research reveals that the man's name was David McKenzie. According to Alvin Rust, McKenzie was involved in preparing some of the plates for the Deseret Currency:
"On 21 January 1858 Brigham Young directed David McKenzie, his secretary, to engrave plates for the notes... However, when they realized that it would take too much time to engrave the plates, notes of a common type were printed at the office of the Deseret News....On 9 October 1858 $5 notes were engraved and issued... The scrip was designed by Henry Maiben, engraved by David McKenzie, and the printing done by Joseph Bull,..." (Mormon and Utah Coin and Currency, pages 74-75 and 82)
The reader will remember that Mark Hofmann has been charged with counterfeiting Deseret Currency. It is also interesting to note that Mr. Hofmann claimed to discover a diary of the counterfeiter David McKenzie. When the Church published a list of 48 items that came through Hofmann, the McKenzie diary was mentioned first: "1. The diary of David McKenzie. The journal has few diary entries, many financial entries and some names and addresses. Small, red date book, leather appearing." (Deseret News, April 12, 1986) Although a quotation from McKenzie's diary in Alvin Rust's book (page 85) speaks of the "Deseret Currency," I do not know whether it contains anything that would relate to the counterfeiting operation.
Judge John Cradlebaugh, who served in Utah, made these statements in a speech delivered in the House of Representatives on February 7, 1863:
"In the summer of 1858, David Machenzie was arrested, charged with engraving plates for counterfeiting Government drafts on the Treasury at St. Louis. The evidence showed that the engraving had been done in the upper part of the Deseret store, in Salt Lake City. This store is within the enclosure of Brigham Young's premises, the same being walled in with a stone wall some twelve or fourteen feet in height. Judge Eckels, who issued the warrant, directed the marshal, Peter K. Dotson, to seize the plates, and any other matter that might be found in the room where the engraving had been done which would establish the offense. The marshal accordingly went to the room and seized the plate. He also found another plate there, belonging, as it since appears, to Brigham Young, and used for striking off the Deseret currency; and, observing that the copper-plate upon which the counterfeit engraving had been made had been cut off one side of Brigham's Deseret currency plate, he brought away with him the currency plate. After the trial Brigham refused to take them back, but brought his action against the marshal, P.K. Dotson, in the probate court. Probate courts throughout the Territory, held in violation of the organic act, are dignified into courts of coequal jurisdiction with the Federal courts. It is one of Brigham's methods of destroying and nullifying the Federal courts....Of course he obtained a judgment against Marshal Dotson for some $2,600.... Dotson's property is sold, and he is turned out of his house... Thus a good, efficient officer is ruined in Utah for having faithfully endeavored to prevent fraud upon the Government Treasury.
"I have the plates here, [exhibiting them.] I have shown them to engravers in the city, and they tell me the original cost of making them could not be more than five or six hundred dollars, and say that they can be put in as good order as ever they were for twenty-five dollars. No stronger evidence could be adduced showing the absolute control of Brigham Young over the courts of Utah." ("Utah and the Mormons," a Speech of Hon. J. Cradlebaugh, as printed in Appendix to the Congressional Globe, Feb. 23, 1863, p. 124)
Juanita Brooks said that David McKenzie was engaged to engrave the plates for the Deseret currency, and while thus engaged he lived with the family of Brigham Young in the Beehive House. On February 28, he married Mary Ann Crowther, and four months later was involved in the counterfeiting scandal....
"McKenzie was convicted and sentenced to a two-year prison term, at the end of which he became disbursing clerk at the tithing office....In 1868 McKenzie was made private secretary of Brigham Young; still later succeeded Horace K. Whitney in keeping the church books." (On The Mormon Frontier, The Diary of Hosea Stout, vol. 2, page 698, footnote 58)
Although the early Mormons always denied that they were involved in counterfeiting, there is so much evidence to the contrary that it cannot be easily dismissed (for more information see MormonismShadow or Reality? pages 528-544). Mark Hofmann undoubtedly knew about this evidence, and it is possible that it influenced his decision to enter into counterfeiting Mormon money.
When it comes to the forgery of historical Church documents, Mark Hofmann could have read a great deal about Mormonism that might be used in an attempt to justify his actions. For instance, Mormon leaders claim that the Book of Mormon is a translation of an ancient history of the Nephites written on gold plates. The internal evidence in the book itself, however, clearly reveals that it is a 19th century production. It appears to have material taken from the Westminster Confession, which was not adopted until 1729 (see MormonismShadow or Reality? pages 68-69), and also reflects the anti-Masonic controversy which was raging in Joseph Smith's time (Ibid., 69-72). The most devastating evidence against the Book of Mormon, however, is its use of material from the Bible. That Joseph Smith plagiarized from the King James Version of the Bible in creating the Book of Mormon is evident to those who have made a careful comparison of the two books. In MormonismShadow or Reality? pages 74-79, we have cited over 200 places where the Book of Mormon used quotations from the New Testament. Most of these quotations were supposed to have been recorded in the Book of Mormon between 600 B.C. and 33 A.D.i.e., before the New Testament was even written!
Joseph Smith's successors also seemed to have little regard for truthful history. As I have pointed out before, the Mormon leaders actually forged the greatest portion (60%) of Joseph Smith's History of the Church after his death. While it is true that they used carefully selected portions from Joseph Smith's diaries and letters written by him, other portions were taken from newspapers and diaries written by other people and some material was created specifically to fill in vacancies in the record. The portions taken from other authors were changed to the first person in an obvious attempt to mislead the reader into believing that they were written by Joseph Smith himself. For example, the newspaper, The Wasp, August 13, 1842, told of an attempt to arrest Joseph Smith as an accessory to the attempted murder of Governor Boggs:
"...Joseph Smith was arrested upon a requisition of Gov. Carlin,...in accordance with a process from Gov. Reynolds of Missouri, upon the affidavit of Ex-Governor Boggs,...Mr. Rockwell was arrested at the same time as principal....these officers...left them in care of the Marshal, without the original writ by which they were arrested, and by which only they could be retained, and returned back to Gov. Carlin for further instruction,and Messrs. Smith and Rockwell went about their business....
"At to Mr. Smith, we have yet to learn by what rule of right he was arrested to be transported to Missouri for a trial of the kind stated."
In the History of the Church, vol. 5, pages 86-87, the plagiarized material was disguised by putting it into the first person as though Joseph Smith had written it himself:
"...I was arrested...on a warrant issued by Governor Carlin, founded on a requisition from Governor Reynolds of Missouri, upon the affidavit of ex-Governor Boggs,...Brother Rockwell was arrested at the same time as principal....these officers...left us in the care of the marshal, without the original writ by which we were arrested, and by which only we could be retained, and returned to Governor Carlin for further instructions, and myself and Rockwell went about our business.
"I have yet to learn by what rule of right I was arrested to be transported to Missouri for a trial of the kind stated."
For a more complete treatment of this subject see MormonismShadow or Reality? pages 126-142; also our book, Falsification of Joseph Smith's History.
What Brigham Young and other Mormon leaders did when they fabricated Joseph Smith's History and claimed that it was written by Joseph Smith "HIMSELF" (History of the Church vol. 1, title page), is exactly what happened in the production of the Salamander letter. In both cases other documents have been plagiarized to create what appears to be an original document written in the first person singular. While the History of the Church and the Salamander letter both contain a certain amount of material that is historically accurate, neither of them can be really depended upon because the authorship has been misrepresented. The History of the Church, of course, presents a pro-Mormon position, whereas the Salamander letter is anti-Mormon in content. In both cases, however, the same deceptive method has been used. I believe that the person who forged the Salamander letter knew about the falsification of Joseph Smith's History. There is evidence that he borrowed material from the Joseph Knight account of the discovery of the gold plates which was edited by Dean Jessee in Brigham Young University Studies. In another issue of BYU Studies (Summer 1971), Dean Jessee verified our contention that Joseph Smith did not finish his History of the Church and that it was completed after his death. He admitted, in fact, that over 60% of the History was compiled after Smith's death. The person who wrote the Salamander letter probably would have been familiar with this article. If not, he could have read Davis Bitton's article in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Winter 1968, pages 30-32. Bitton, who was Assistant Church Historian, spoke of the many changes in the History of the Church (DHC) and then commented: "...for researchers in early Mormon history Rule Number One is 'Do not rely on the DHC; never use a quotation from it without comparing the earlier versions.' "
Although the idea for committing murder could have come from many different sources, it is interesting to note that a study of early Mormon Church history reveals that there was a belief that murder was sometimes an acceptable solution to a problem. In all fairness it should be stated that the Mormons were persecuted by their enemies, and this undoubtedly led them to the idea of taking vengeance into their own hands. Nevertheless, evidence shows that something grew out of this early climate which went far beyond the idea of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Book of Mormon witness David Whitmer reported that "a secret organization was formed" among the Mormons at Far West, Missouri in June 1838 which was known as the Danites. Although there has been an attempt to entirely disassociate Joseph Smith from the Danites, there is strong evidence to show that he was aware of what was going on (see MormonismShadow or Reality? pages 428-440). At any rate, the Mormon writer William E. Berrett admitted that "Such a band as the 'Danites' did exist, as historians affirm;...The organization had been for the purpose of plundering and murdering the enemies of the Saints." (The Restored Church, 1956, pages 197-198)
The activities of this band had a great deal to do with the Mormons being driven from Missouri. After they were expelled, many of them were filled with hatred and ideas of revenge. Joseph Smith felt that "Lieutenant Governor Boggs" was chiefly responsible for driving the Mormons out, and at one time He said that Boggs was worthy of death: "All earth and hell cannot deny that a baser knave, a greater traitor, and a more wholesale butcher, or murderer of mankind ever went untried, unpunished, and unhungsince hanging is the popular method of execution among the Gentiles in all countries professing Christianity, instead of blood for blood, according to the law of heaven." (History of the Church, vol. 1, page 435)
On May 6, 1842, an attempt was made on the life of Lilburn W. Boggs. The Mormon writer John J. Stewart commented: "Unfortunately for Joseph, the Mormons and mankind generally, Boggs recovered despite three bullet wounds in the head and neck." (Joseph Smith the Mormon Prophet, 1966, p. 171) On May 28, 1842, the Mormon newspaper, The Wasp, published a communication signed by "Vortex." In this article we find the following: "Boggs is undoubtedly killed, according to report, but who did the noble deed remains to be found out."
Anti-Mormon writers have always accused Orrin Porter Rockwell of shooting Boggs. Mormon writer Harold Schindler has done a great deal of research on this matter, and although he does not definitely state that Rockwell was guilty of the attempted assassination, he does bring out the fact that Rockwell was in the area and that he was using an assumed name:
"Therefore, in February of 1842 when Orrin Porter Rockwell gathered up his family to visit Independence so that Luana...could be with her parents, Bennett, so he says, was not surprised at Joseph's explanation that Rockwell had gone to 'fulfill prophecy.'...Since Jackson County settlors still harbored a hatred for Mormons, Rockwell used an assumed name while in the area; he called himself Brown." (Orrin Porter Rockwell; Man of God, Son of Thunder, page 73)
On pages 75-76 of the same book, Mr. Schindler gave this information about the murder:
"Outside the house a crowd had quickly gathered at first report of the murder attempt...one of the spectators discovered a gun. Sheriff Reynolds studied the firearm carefully,...a storekeeper named Uhlinger recognized the weapon as one stolen from his shop.
" 'I thought the niggers had taken it, but that hired man of Ward's...he came in to look at it just before it turned up missing!' the storekeeper said.
"Grateful for a genuine lead, Reynolds began looking for the hired hand, 'to ask some questions,' but the man was nowhere to be found. It was not long before the sheriff determined that Mr. Brown, the suspect, was Orrin Porter Rockwell."
Book of Mormon witness John Whitmer felt that Joseph Smith had ordered the assassination of Boggs: "He hired a man by the name of Porter Orin Rockwell (who was one of the Gadianton band [i.e., the Danites] of whom I heretofore spoke) to go and murder a man by name of L.W. Boggs." (John Whitmer's History, Chapter 21) Joseph Smith was charged with being "an accessory before the fact" (History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 86) to the attempted murder, but the state of Missouri was never able to bring him back to stand trial.
In a manuscript written in 1839, Reed Peck said that the Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith claimed that he had a revelation in which the Apostle Peter told him that he had killed Judas: "He [Joseph Smith] talked of dissenters and cited us to the case of Judas, saying that Peter told him in a conversation a few days ago that himself hung Judas for betraying Christ..." (The Reed Peck Manuscript, page 13)
Although this doctrine was kept secret at first, when the Mormons were settled in Utah, they began to teach it openly. On Dec. 13, 1857, Heber C. Kimball, a member of the First Presidency of the Mormon Church, made this statement in the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City:
"Judas lost the saving principle, and they took him and killed him. It is said in the Bible that his bowels gushed out; but they actually kicked him until his bowels came out.... Judas was like salt that had lost its saving principlesgood for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men.... It is so with you, ye Elders of Israel, when you forfeit your covenants.... I know the day is right at hand when men will forfeit their Priesthood and turn against us and against the covenants they have made, and they will be destroyed as Judas was." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 6, pages 125-126)
Joseph Smith's brother, William, gave this testimony in court: "I left Nauvoo in 1845 because my life was in danger if I remained there, because of my objections and protests against the doctrine of blood atonement and other new doctrines that were brought into the church." (Temple Lot Case, page 98) In the Warsaw Signal, October 29, 1845, William Smith warned that Brigham Young was teaching blood atonementi.e., the doctrine that a man might be killed to save his soul. At first Brigham Young denied that such a doctrine was taught, but by 1857 he was boldly proclaiming the blood atonement doctrine. In one sermon Brigham Young, the second President of the Church, made these astounding remarks:
"There are sins that men commit for which they cannot receive forgiveness...and if they had their eyes open to see their true condition, they would be perfectly willing to have their blood spilt upon the ground, that the smoke thereof might ascend to heaven as an offering for their sins; and the smoking incense would atone, for their sins, whereas, if such is not the case, they will stick to them and remain upon them in the spirit world.
"I know, when you hear my brethren telling about cutting people off from the earth, that you consider it is strong doctrine, but it is to save them, not to destroy them....
"And furthermore, I know that there are transgressors, who, if they knew themselves, and the only condition upon which they can obtain forgiveness, would beg of their brethren to shed their blood,...I will say further; I have had men come to me and offer their lives to atone for their sins.
"It is true that the blood of the Son of God was shed for sins through the fall and those committed by men, yet men can commit sins which it can never remit....There are sins that can be atoned for by an offering upon an altar, as in ancient days; and there are sins that the blood of a lamb, of a calf, or of turtle doves, cannot remit, but they must be atoned for by the blood of the man. That is the reason why men talk to you as they do from this stand; they understand the doctrine and throw out a few words about it." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 4, pages 53-54)
On another occasion President Brigham Young went so far as to claim that his "blood atonement" doctrine fulfilled Jesus' command to "love thy neighbor as thyself":
"All mankind love themselves, and let these principles be known by an individual, and he would be glad to have his blood shed. That would be loving themselves, even unto an eternal exaltation. Will you love your brothers or sisters likewise, when they have committed a sin that cannot be atoned for without the shedding of their blood? Will you love that man or woman well enough to shed their blood?
"I could refer you to plenty of instances where men have been righteously slain, in order to atone for their sins....
"This is loving our neighbor as ourselves; if he needs help, help him; and if he wants salvation and it is necessary to spill his blood on the earth in order that he may be saved, spill it. Any of you who understand the principles of eternity, if you have sinned a sin requiring the shedding of blood, except the sin unto death, would not be satisfied nor rest until your blood should be spilled, that you might gain that salvation you desire. That is the way to love mankind." (Deseret News, Feb. 18, 1857)
Since Brigham Young's "blood atonement" sermons and those of other Church leaders were published in the Church's own newspaper, Deseret News, and were later reprinted by the Mormons in England in the Journal of Discourses, there can be no question regarding the accuracy of the printed reports. In chapters 25, 28, 33 and 36 of MormonismShadow or Reality? we presented a great deal of evidence showing that "blood atonement" was both taught and practiced.
There appears to be some evidence to show that Mark Hofmann was familiar with the doctrine of "blood atonement." As I pointed out in another chapter, the Salt Lake Tribune for Feb. 6, 1986, claimed that "Mr. Lilywhite said Mr. Hofmann said the commander [Jonathan Dunham] was later found dead with his throat slashed." Those who enforced the "blood atonement" doctrine often cut the throat of the intended victim. If Dunham refused to rescue Joseph Smith from the Carthage jail, as Hofmann and others have claimed, he would have been a good candidate for "blood atonement." After the bombings there was a rumor, apparently circulated by some of Mr. Hofmann's friends, that among the Bullock collection Hofmann found a document which was reported to be Brigham Young's list of people who were to be assassinated. While I do not believe that he really found such a document, if Mr. Hofmann made this claim, it would tend to show that he was interested in the doctrine of "blood atonement."
During the 1970s and 1980s there have been a number of murders committed by Mormon Fundamentalistsi.e., people who believe in the early teachings of the Mormon Church but are no longer in the Church itself. Brigham Young's doctrine of "blood atonement" played an important role in the murders committed by Ervil Lebaron and his followers, and also in the case of the Lafferty brothers who cut the throats of their brother's wife and her 15-month-old daughter (see Salt Lake City Messenger, March 1985). If Mark Hofmann is indeed guilty of murder, I doubt very much that he did it because he believed in the "blood atonement" doctrinei.e., believed he was saving the souls of Christensen or Sheets by shedding their blood. On the other hand, the knowledge that the early leaders of his Church (whom he had been taught to revere from his youth) taught such an outlandish doctrine could have affected his thinking with regard to murder.
EFFECT ON CHURCH
Mr. Hofmann must have believed that his "discoveries" would tend to liberalize the Mormon Church as scholars and Church leaders came to accept them, and there is little doubt that this has turned out to be the case. Some Mormon scholars, in fact, have confessed that the Salamander letter served as the catalyst that led them to deeper studies regarding the connection between Mormonism and magic. Now that the documents have been exposed as forgeries, historians may have suffered some loss of credibility with the average member of the Church. This would probably tend to greatly strengthen the orthodox position in the Church if it were not for another factori.e., the loss of credibility that the Mormon leaders have suffered. It is possible, in fact, that the exposure of Hofmann's documents as forgeries could do more harm to the Church in the long run than if the documents were proven authentic. While it is true that both Mormon and non-Mormon historians were fooled (and I must admit that I believed in the Anthon transcript and the Joseph Smith III Blessing for some time), as a general rule historians do not claim to be inspired by God. The Mormon leaders, on the other hand, claim special guidance from the Lord. According to Ezra Taft Benson, the present Prophet, Seer and Revelator of the Church, "The Prophet Will Never Lead The Church Astray." ("Fourteen Fundamentals In Following The Prophets," an address given at BYU, Feb. 26, 1980; printed in Following The Brethren, page 5) President Benson claims that the leaders of the Church have special discernment which is far superior to "earthly knowledge":
"FIFTH: The Prophet is Not Required to Have Any Particular Earthly Training or Credentials to Speak on Any Subject or Any Matter at Any Time.
"Sometimes there are those who feel their earthly knowledge on a certain subject is superior to the heavenly knowledge which God gives to His Prophet on the same subject....We haven't yet had a prophet who earned a doctorate degree in any subject, but as someone said, 'A prophet may not have his PhD but he certainly has his LDS.' We encourage earthly knowledge in many areas, but remember if there is ever a conflict between earthly knowledge and the words of the prophet, you stand with the prophet and you'll be blessed and time will vindicate you." (Ibid., page 6)
On page 10 of his address, President Benson said: "NINTH: The Prophet Can Receive Revelation on Any Matter-Temporal or Spiritual."
As I think of President Benson's statements concerning the special powers of a prophet, I cannot help but remember the photograph of his predecessor, Spencer W. Kimball, the twelfth Prophet, Seer and Revelator of the Church, which appeared in the Church Section of the Deseret News on May 3, 1980.
(click on each image to enlarge)
A photograph from the Church Section of the Mormon newspaper, Deseret News, May 3, 1980. Notice that Mark Hofmann is showing the Anthon transcript to the Prophet, Seer and Revelator and other leaders of the church (Hinckley on far right).
President Kimball is flanked by Mark Hofmann, President N. Eldon Tanner, President Marion G. Romney, Apostle Boyd K. Packer and Apostle Gordon B. Hinckley. Neither President Kimball nor any of the other General Authorities seem to be able to detect anything wrong with either "Brother Hofmann" or the Anthon transcript. As I pointed out earlier, 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 appear on the Anthon transcript. Instead of using the "seer stone," he examined the characters which appear on the transcript 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 affect 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.
While the Mormon leaders claim to have the same powers as the ancient Apostles in the Bible, their performance with regard to Mark Hofmann certainly does not match up to that of the Apostle Peter when he caught Ananias and Sapphira red-handed in their attempt to deceive the church with regard to a financial transaction: "But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?" (Acts 5:3)
As President Kimball got older, he became less able to function and President Gordon B. Hinckley took over many of his responsibilities and became to all appearances the acting president of the Church. Hinckley, who stood with President Kimball in the 1980 photograph, was deceived on a number of occasions by Mr. Hofmann. He, together with Apostle Boyd K. Packer (also shown in the picture), approved many of the deals the Church made with Hofmann. In a paper prepared for Sunstone Theological Symposium, John Heinerman and Anson Shupe wrote the following:
"The LDS Church News pointed out that 'The Church is mentioned most often as victim in the 28-count complaint against Hofmann' with 'the majority of the counts deal[ing] with historical documents of interest to the Church and involving at least a half million dollars and a number of victims'...
"What's so incredible about these kinds of deception is that the principal victims involved occupy an unusually high ecclesiastical status within the Mormon Church and are designated 'as prophets, seers, and revelators to the Church' (McConkie, 1966)....the Lord told Joseph Smith while he was a prisoner in Liberty Jail in 1839 that 'the Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion' (D&C 121:46). Elsewhere He promised that those who 'have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide' would not be deceived (D&C 45:57) and admonished the leading Elders of His Church to always 'conduct all meetings as they are directed and guided by the Holy Spirit' (D&C 46:2). If such scriptural promises are legitimate, one is led to speculate why such men as Hinckley, Oaks, and Pinnock became such easy marks for the apparent fraud and deceit worked upon them by Mark Hofmann.
"One possible explanation was offered by Allen Roberts and Fred Esplin: 'Naive, overly-motivated and highly secretive buyers are vulnerable targets for expert exploiters'...A second explanation came from an older Relief Society sister, one Zella J. Hill, residing in the Eighth Ward in Salt Lake City: 'When I heard and kept learning how Mr. Hofmann took them with his forgeries, I'm inclined to think more and more that they're not as inspired as they make out to be...He [President Hinckley] should have had more sense in knowing just what kind of man he was dealing with'... The comment offered by Sister Zella J. Hill may reflect the unexpressed opinions of a good segment of Mormon membership who wondered after and were puzzled by the deceptions Hofmann was able to commit against several Church heirarchy: 'If they had the wool pulled over their eyes once in something like this [forged documents], then it makes you wonder what other kinds of mistakes they might make later on in something else far more serious than this'... If nothing else, the victimization of certain Church leaders by Hofmann's apparent fraud and deceit, has served to weaken the absolute trust and confidence which many devout Mormons have heretofore given them. As to what degree their trust and confidence has eroded, only time will tell." ("Mark Hofmann and the Mormon Manuscript Bombings: Fraud and Deceit in a Religious Context," pages 5, 7-9)
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 Anthon transcript. The inability of the Mormon leaders to detect the religious fraud perpetrated upon them raises a question as to their testimony with regard to the Book of Mormon. After all, if they could not determine that Hofmann's documentswhich were only 150 years oldwere forgeries, how can we trust their judgment with regard to a record which is supposed to be ten times as old? They have seen and inspected Mark Hofmann's documents, but they have never seen the gold plates the Book of Mormon was translated from. While it could be possible that Joseph Smith really had some kind of metal plates, how would the present leaders of the Mormon Church know if they were genuine or fabricated? At one time even the Book of Mormon witness John Whitmer, who claimed to see the plates and signed the statement printed in the Book of Mormon, acknowledged that he did not know whether the Book of Mormon was really a translation of the plates. In his book, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses, page 131, Mormon scholar Richard Lloyd Anderson gives this information about John Whitmer:
"Answering in the presence of his anti-Mormon friends, the Book of Mormon witness made two revealing statements. First, he admitted, 'I now say, I handled those plates; there were fine engravings on both sides. I handled them.' When Turley next asked bluntly why Whitmer now doubted the work, the witness indicated his inability to translate the characters on the plates: 'I cannot read it, and I do not know whether it is true or not.' "
It is interesting to note that John Whitmer and other witnesses to the Book of Mormon were deceived for a time by a forger who claimed he was Joseph Smith's true successor. James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard give this information concerning this deceiver:
"A more successful leader was James J. Strang of Wisconsin, who had joined the Church only four months before the death of the Prophet. In August 1844 he presented a letter that, he claimed, had been written by Joseph Smith, appointing Strang as the Prophet's successor. The Twelve labeled it a forgery and excommunicated him, but the charismatic Strang gathered many believers...in 1856 he was murdered by one of his own disaffected followers." (The Story of the Latter-day Saints, page 240)
Lawrence Foster informs us that "Dale L. Morgan points out a number of factors which suggest a forgery. First, the letter is hand printed. No other extant letter ever written or dictated by Joseph Smith was hand printed. Second, the signature of the letter, written by the same hand as the text of the letter, bears not the slightest resemblance to Joseph Smith's distinctive signature. Finally, the content of the letter itself is extremely uncharacteristic of Joseph Smith's writing style, but it is strikingly similar to a beautiful passage in Strang's own diary for March 20, 1833. For these and a number of other complex reasons, Morgan concludes that the letter was probably a forgery by Strang. I have carefully examined the original 'letter of appointment' and fully concur with Morgan's judgments." (Religion and Sexuality: The Shakers, the Mormons, and the Oneida Community, by Lawrence Foster, page 325)
On pages 190-91 of the same book, Foster gives this information: "Strang argued with considerable eloquence that the letter, in conjunction with an angelic ordination that he had received, showed him to be Joseph Smith's true successor. To buttress these claims, Strang began to deliver revelations in Smith's 'Thus saith the Lord' style....In the presence of four witnesses, in the autumn of 1845 Strang dug up some brass plates near Voree, the inscriptions on which he then 'translated.' Later he would 'translate' a brilliant elaboration and extension of Mosaic Law which he called the Book of the Law of the Lord."
James J. Strang, like Joseph Smith, claimed to translate the plates with the Urim and Thummim. He had witnesses who claimed they saw the plates, and their testimony is recorded in almost the same way that the testimony of the eleven witnesses is recorded in the Book of Mormon. Although Brigham Young claimed that Strang was a very wicked man, some of the Book of Mormon witnesses were so credulous that they were influenced by Strang's claims. On January 20th, 1848, Strang wrote the following:
"...early in 1846 the tract reprint of the first number of the Voree Herald, containing the evidence of my calling and authority, strayed into upper Missouri. Immediately I received a letter from Hiram Page, one of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon, and a neighbor and friend to the Whitmers' who lived near him, and that they rejoiced with exceeding joy that God had raised up one to stand in place of Joseph, ...He goes on to say that all the witnesses of the Book of Mormon living in that region received the news with gladness, and finally that they held a council in which David [Whitmer] and John Whitmer and this Hiram Page were the principle actors; and being at a loss what they ought to do about coming to Voree, sent up to me as a prophet of God to tell them what to do. ...I received another letter...in which, among other things they invite me to come to their residence in Missouri and receive from them, David and John Whitmer, church records, and manuscript revelations, which they had kept in their possession from the time that they were active members of the church. These documents they speak of as great importance to the church, and offer them to me as the true shepherd who has a right to them,..." (Gospel Herald, January 20, 1848)
In a letter to Book of Mormon witness David Whitmer, dated Dec. 2, 1846, William E. McLellin stated: "I was visited by James J. Strang...He told me that all the witnesses to the book of Mormon yet alive were with him, except Oliver." (The Ensign of Liberty, Kirtland, Ohio, April 1847, pages 17-19) Mr. Strang was undoubtedly telling the truth about the Book of Mormon witnesses. John Whitmer, one the the eight witnesses, wrote the following in his history of the churchlater, however, it was crossed out:
"God knowing all things prepared a man whom he visited by an angel of God and showed him where there were some ancient record hid, and also put in his heart to desire of Smith to grant him power to establish a stake...whose name is James. J. Strang. Now first Smith was unfavorably disposed to grant him this request but being troubled in spirit and knowing from the things that were staring him in his face that his days must soon be closed therefore he enquired of the Lord and behold the Lord said [three words indecipherable] James J. Strang a Prophet Seer & Revelator to my church, for this stake....the Lord's anointed fell by the brutal hand of man, & they are gone the way of all the earth and Strang Reigns in the place of Smith the author and proprietor of the Book of Mormon." (John Whitmer's History, page 23)
Martin Harris, one of the three special witnesses to the Book of Mormon, joined the Strangite movement and even went on a mission to England for them. The Mormon Church's own publication Latter-Day Saints Millennial Star had some very sharp words to say about Martin Harris when it was discovered that he was coming to England to preach Strangite doctrine:
"One of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon, yielded to the spirit and temptation of the devil a number of years agoturned against Joseph Smith and became his bitter enemy. He was filled with the rage and madness of a demon. One day he would be one thing, and another day another thing. He soon became partially deranged or shattered, as many believed, flying from one thing to another, as if reason and common sense were thrown off their balance. In one of his fits of monomania, he went and joined the 'Shakers' or followers of Anne Lee....but since Strang has made his entry into the apostate ranks, and hoisted his standard for the rebellious to flock too, Martin leaves the 'Shakers,' whom he knows to be right, and has known it for many years, as he said and joins Strang in gathering out the tares of the field. We understand that he is appointed a mission to this country, but we do not feel to warn the Saints against him, for his own unbridled tongue will soon show out specimens of folly enough to give any person a true index to the character of the man; but if the Saints wish to know what the Lord hath said of him, they may turn to the 178th page of the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and the person there called a 'wicked man' is no other than Martin Harris,..." (Latter Day Saints' Millennial Star, vol. 8, Nov. 15, 1846, pages 124-28)
Although the present leaders of the Mormon Church would have us believe that the witnesses to the Book of Mormon were all very stable men, a careful examination of the evidence reveals that this was not the case (see MormonismShadow or Reality? pages 50-63). They were not only misled by Strang but by others as well, and some of them gave false revelations in the name of the Lord. As the Latter-Day Saints' Millennial Star indicated, Martin Harris, one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, at one time accepted the Shakers' Sacred Roll and Book as a divine revelation. This revealing statement appeared on page 173 of The Braden and Kelly Debate: "Harris declared repeatedly that he had as much evidence for a Shaker book he had as for the Book of Mormon." In a thesis written at Brigham Young University, Wayne Cutler Gunnell stated that on Dec. 31, 1844, "Phineas H. Young [Brigham Young's brother] and other leaders of the Kirtland organization" wrote a letter to Brigham Young in which they stated:
"There are in this place all kinds of teaching; Martin Harris is a firm believer in Shakerism, says his testimony is greater than it was of the Book of Mormon." ("Martin HarrisWitness and Benefactor to the Book of Mormon," 1955, page 52)
It is very difficult to seriously consider the testimony of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon when we find that they followed a number of deceivers and people who gave false revelations. Furthermore, the fact that the present leaders of the Mormon Church could not detect a forgery of the characters on Hofmann's Anthon transcript certainly casts doubt upon their testimony to the gold platesplates which they have never actually seen themselves. When it comes down to it, the Book of Mormon reminds me a great deal of Hofmann's documents. It shows signs of plagiarism and has absolutely no provenance. No one ever saw it before it showed up in Joseph Smith's hands, and it was never quoted in any ancient record. The Angel Moroni, who was supposed to have revealed the gold plates to Joseph Smith, seems as illusive as Allen Lee Bullockthe man who was supposed to give the Joseph Smith III Blessing to Mark Hofmann.
With regard to the inability of the Mormon leaders to detect that the Hofmann documents were fraudulent, a person might try to argue that these documents were not really important spiritual writings, and therefore the Lord did not see fit to intervene when the General Authorities examined them. The truth of the matter, however, is that they contain extremely important material directly relating to spiritual affairs. The Salamander letter, for example, changes the story of the Angel Moroni appearing to Joseph Smith to that of a cantankerous and tricky "old spirit" who transforms himself from a white salamander and strikes Joseph Smith. Moreover, some of the purported Joseph Smith writings which Hofmann sold to the Church contain revelations from the Lord Himself. For instance, the Joseph Smith III Blessing document gives this message from the Lord: "Verily, thus saith the Lord: if he abides in me, his days shall be lengthened upon the earth, but, if he abides not in me, I, the Lord, will receive him, in an instant, unto myself." As I have pointed out earlier, the 1838 letter of Joseph Smith to his brother, Hyrum, is in its entirety a revelation purporting to come from the Lord. It begins with the words, "Verily thus Saith the Lord," and ends with the word "Amen." The fact that the Mormon leaders were unable to recognize the spurious nature of these revelations casts doubt upon their ability to discern the truthfulness of the other revelations given by Joseph Smith. It has always been claimed that it is virtually impossible for a person to write a revelation that would compare with Joseph Smith's. According to a revelation given by Joseph Smith in November 1831, the Lord challenged the early Mormons to try to duplicate one of Joseph Smith's revelations:
"Now, seek ye out of the Book of Commandments, even the least that is among them, and appoint him that is the most wise among you:
"Or, if there be any among you that shall make one like unto it, then ye are justified in saying that ye do not know that they are true;
"But if he cannot make one like unto it, ye are under condemnation if ye do not bear record that they are true." (Doctrine and Covenants, Section 67, verses 6-8)
After this revelation was given, Joseph Smith boasted: "...William E. M'Lellin, as the wisest man, in his own estimation, having more learning than sense, endeavored to write a commandment like unto one of the least of the Lord's, but failed; it was an awful responsibility to write in the name of the Lord. The Elders and all present that witnessed this vain attempt of a man to imitate the language of Jesus Christ, renewed their faith in the fulness of the Gospel, and in the truth of the commandments and revelations which the Lord had given to the Church through my instrumentality; and the Elders signified a willingness to bear testimony of their truth to all the world." (History of the Church, vol. 1, page 226)
It now appears that there is someone who can write revelations comparable to Joseph Smith's and that it is even possible to get them past the scrutiny of the highest leadership of the Mormon Church.
The Mormon leaders teach that there has been "a restoration of the gospel" through Joseph Smith the Prophet. Smith restored the Book of Mormon and a great deal of other ancient Scripture. All of these purported Scriptures have no provenancei.e., there is nothing but the manuscripts written on what was modern paper during Joseph Smith's lifetime. In MormonismShadow or Reality? pages 375-76, we wrote the following:
"The Apostle Pratt's statement that there is 'more than one thousand times' the amount of evidence to prove the Book of Mormon than to prove the Bible is certainly a misrepresentation. We have already shown that the only evidence for the Book of Mormon is the testimony of the witnesses and that this testimony can not be relied upon.
"As far as historical and manuscript evidence is concerned, Joseph Smith's scriptures have absolutely no foundation. The 'records of the Nephites,' for instance, were never cited by any ancient writer, nor are there any known manuscripts or even fragments of manuscripts in existence older than the ones dictated by Joseph Smith in the late 1820's. Joseph Smith's Book of Moses is likewise without documentary support. The only handwritten manuscripts for the Book of Moses are those dictated by Joseph Smith in the early 1830's. Since Joseph Smith's revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants do not purport to be translations of ancient records, we would not expect to find any ancient manuscript evidence concerning them. There is one revelation, however, which purports to be a translation of a 'record made on parchment by John and hidden up by himself.' This revelation is found in the Doctrine and Covenants as Section 7. There is no documentary support for this revelation. The Book of Abraham purports to be a translation of an ancient Egyptian papyrus. We have already shown, however, that the original papyrus is in reality the Egyptian Book of Breathings and has nothing to do with Abraham or his religion. Therefore, we have no evidence for the Book of Abraham prior to the handwritten manuscripts dictated by Joseph Smith in the 1830's. It would appear, then, that there is no documentary evidence for any of Joseph Smith's works that dates back prior to the late 1820's.
"When we turn to the Bible, however, we find a great deal of evidencesome of which dates back more than 2,000 yearsshowing that the Bible was known and used in early times. While this in itself does not prove that the Bible is divinely inspired, it does give a person a basis for faith."
Mark Hofmann seems to have effected his own "restoration" of religious documents from the past. While he has not pretended to find the signatures of Abraham, Moses and Aaron, he has "discovered" Mormon material which was supposed to have been written as far back as the 1820's. Mr. Hofmann restored important letters and revelations from Joseph Smith as well as material from other prominent Mormons. Hofmann's "restoration" was even more convincing than Joseph Smith's because he not only gave us the text of these significant documents, but he claimed to have the very original copies on paper dating back to the period in which they were supposed to have been written.
The exposure of Mr. Hofmann's scheme to undermine the Mormon Church does not really help the Church. On the contrary, it shows how gullible we all can be and that even the Prophet of the Mormon Church can be deceived. Once the fallibility of the present Prophet, Seer and Revelator is perceived, one begins to wonder about Joseph Smith himself. When the searchlight is focused upon him, we see that he looks remarkably like Mark Hofmann.
The action of the Church leaders in buying up and suppressing Mark Hofmann's documents raises another important question: if they were willing to pay thousands of dollars to buy forgeries which tended to discredit Joseph Smith, how many authentic documents have they bought up and locked away in the Church Archives and the First Presidency's vault? The fact that the General Authorities of the Church believed in and bought Mr. Hofmann's forgeries reveals a great deal about their own thinking concerning the original Prophet. They must have known from other things they have read that Joseph Smith was deeply involved in money-digging and magic or they would not have been so easily persuaded to buy Hofmann's documents. The impression one gets is that the Mormon leaders know that Joseph Smith was not really like the image the Church has presented to the people, but that they must maintain that image at all costseven if it means they have to buy up and suppress documents.
For those who are interested in knowing more about Mormon history and doctrine I recommend our book MormonismShadow or Reality?
Back | Next
Home | FAQs | What's New | Topical Index | Testimony | Newsletters | Online Resources | Online Books | Booklist | Order/Contact | Email | Other Websites